UNFC distributing fresh healthy food to those in need

Ken Kellar

As people in the district watch their grocery bills rise, and their options decrease, the United Native Friendship Centre (UNFC) is stepping into help make some meals more complete.

From noon until 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18, the UNFC will be offering fresh, healthy food to go from their Circle of Life Centre at 616 Mowat Ave in Fort Frances.

UNFC program worker Wendy Kabel explained the goal of the program was to help do some of the lifting as people are dealing with the stress and stretching of household dollars that has resulted from COVID-19.

“The cost of food and COVID has changed a lot of our normal purchasing habits,” Kabel said.

“I think we’ve all noticed that the cost of fresh healthy food has gone up and it continues to rise. We may be just filling in a few gaps here and there where people would like to have a family barbecue but might not be able to afford it.”

The plan, Kabel said, is to have a selection of fresh and healthy food items in ready to go (and reusable) cooler bags and just like other programs on offer at the UNFC, these bags are available to anyone in need in the community.

“We’re looking at just distributing some extra nutrition in a fun way,” she explained.

“So it’ll be in a cooler pack with a little ice pack, there will be some protein in there, some fresh produce, and then some bread and milk.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected most of the public in different ways. While many people have kept working through the government mandated shutdowns, others haven’t been so lucky, and while programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been there to help make for some lost income, the cost of living and many fresh and healthy grocery items continues to rise.

Kabel noted that as the use of the UNFC’s food bank rose throughout the pandemic, and their hot meal and breakfast programs saw heavy use, the staff at the UNFC saw an opportunity to continue to help people get nutritious meals, adding that the timing of the program would enable people to enjoy the summer weather in a way that they might not otherwise have been able to.

Sourcing local food is something that is important to many people and Kabel said they’ve tried to source the food that will be given out as locally as possible, with the UNFC reaching out to local meat producers and others to help fill the bags.

“I would say there’s probably all kinds of opportunity for people to donate,” she said.

“We’re definitely sourcing our protein as locally as possible and we will also be sourcing some things from wholesalers, but if there’s every a chance to partner or offer assistance as an additional treat in our to-go food bag, that sounds awesome too.”

There is no cost to access the initiative on Tuesday afternoon, and while Kabel stressed that the bags will be first come, first serve, there will also be measures in lace to ensure that those who have mobility or transportation issues aren’t excluded from getting some fresh food.

“If people do have any mobility or transportation limitations, they’re more than welcome to give us a call no later than the day before to arrange for limited delivery,” she said.

If you need to arrange a delivery you can call the UNFC before 2:00 p.m. on Monday, August 17.