Local food box program misses chance at funds

Heather Latter

FORT FRANCES—Although the “Community Food Box” program offered monthly by the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market didn’t make it to the semi-final round of the Aviva Community Fund’s contest to earn a share of $500,000 in funding, Kim Cornell is pleased with the support it received.
“I think we did quite well,” he remarked, noting their cause garnered more than 200 votes over the past two weeks.
However, it couldn’t compete with some of the entries from larger cities that saw thousands of votes for particular projects.
“But it was worth a try,” Cornell stressed. “I hope we’ve captured people’s imaginations about local food and how even in the Rainy River District, we can learn to feed ourselves.”
For more than a year now, food boxes containing an assortment of locally-grown fruits and vegetables have been distributed once a month to Emo, Rainy River, Atikokan, and Kenora to promote healthy lifestyles.
The project also supports positive economic development within the local farm community.
Cornell explained the CVFM directors entered the “Community Food Box” program in the competition because, as first reported several weeks ago, storage and transportation are their two big obstacles.
“We want to do some sort of appropriate vegetable storage at the [farmers’ market],” he explained.
“We’ve got growers really keen to grow and we’re developing a program where there’s an outlet for that product, but storage is an issue.
“All the small growers can’t afford to do storage,” Cornell stressed. “So if we could offer storage, we could support the smaller growers.”
After storage, Cornell said transportation is their next challenge.
“We need to do something about refrigerated transportation, or obviously in January, heated transportation,” he remarked, saying right now the CVFM directors are running around Northwestern Ontario with their own vehicles providing the service.
Cornell said that while earning a portion of the money being offered by the Aviva Community Fund would have been nice, they have been exploring other ideas to alleviate the storage and transportation obstacles.
“I’m glad we [entered] because we got some exposure and more interest in the food boxes,” he added.
People even posted positive comments to the website to show their support.
“This is a wonderful project,” one comment read. “I know people who utilize this food box, and being able to distribute both meats and yearly would be a wonderful addition to a great service to many.”
“This is an innovative and effective way to increase the capacity of farmers to provide local food without needing to become directly involved in marketing,” another wrote.
“It could serve as a model for other isolated areas across Canada.”
While the top 60 submissions in the Aviva Community Fund’s contest will continue to compete for a share of the funding, Cornell noted the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market will continue to offer the “Community Food Box” to residents.
Those interested in purchasing a food box can do so by signing up before the first Thursday of the month, with pick-up in each of the communities on the third Wednesday of the month.
The cost for the food box is $25.
(Fort Frances Times)