The market also had food such as stalks of corn, oranges, bags of potatoes, peaches, cucumbers, apples, watermelon, frozen ground turkey and whole pineapples as well as non-perishable items available on the opening day. Farrell said she hopes to have meat options rotate around on a regular basis and possibly add fish.
“It is easier to eat unhealthy, but we’re going to make it easier to eat healthy,” she said. “We want to hear from people what they want.”
Plans call for a commercial grade kitchen to be installed in the basement of the building, a former Scouts Canada location for decades, hopefully in 2021. Farrell also hopes to begin workshops and cooking classes in the coming year, possibly with themes such as Indigenous cooking and blind-low vision cooking, food preservation/canning, and cooking for critical illness survivors such as cancer survivors, to encourage people to learn new skills in the kitchen.
Those classes will be open to everyone, regardless of their income level.
Farrell said statistically, people in lower-income brackets are much more susceptible to diabetes and other health conditions related to less healthy food options, resulting in life spans years shorter than other people.
“(But) it’s amazing how if you change your diet you can reverse that trend,” she said.
Her agency has also embarked on a farm-to-table program, with volunteers tending to a one-and-a-half-acre plot of land at partner St. Davids Farm, growing produce for the new market location.
The GROW centre and market’s development has been guided by a community advisory committee –some members of whom have experienced homelessness, poverty and food security—advising the agency’s board of directors.
Farrell said that’s important so the centre and market can provide the resources that local people who know best what is needed can guide its development.
“We really want to serve the community,” she said. “We wanted this to be a beautiful, welcoming place.”
The centre has just hired Roxanne Molineaux as indigenous community outreach coordinator. She will be coordinating Indigenous knowledge sharing and contributing to the development of a strategy to work in partnership with Indigenous communities.
Jodoin said he is excited to be part of the effort to broaden access to healthy food to people downtown.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s going to help out a lot of people.”
Part of the target audience is the sizeable percentage of people with lower incomes who for a variety of reasons don’t access food banks, said Farrell. “We want to ensure we capture those people so they don’t have to go without,” she said.
The GROW centre is always in need of additional volunteers to help out, said Farrell.
The low-income cutoff in a region the size of Niagara ranged in 2018 from $22,186 for a single-person household to $27,619 for a two-person household, $33,953 for a three-person household, up to $58,712 for a seven-person household.