Free boxes of fresh produce are currently being provided in Quesnel by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Northern BC thanks to a donation from West Fraser Mills. (File photo)

Free boxes of fresh produce are currently being provided in Quesnel by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Northern BC thanks to a donation from West Fraser Mills. (File photo)

Fresh produce available for those in need in Quesnel

Donation allows Canadian Mental Health Association to provide free fruits and veggies

Boxes containing fruits and vegetables are available for low-income residents in Quesnel who may not be able to otherwise afford nutritious, good-quality food.

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Northern BC (CMHANBC) has distributed at least 50 boxes containing produce like apples, bananas, carrots and potatoes since spring.

Community food co-ordinator Kirsten Balaski said the project was made possible by a donation from West Fraser Mills, who reached out wanting to provide food supports to the community.

A partnership was struck up with Long Table Grocery to provide fresh produce.

“It’s a great collaboration that can have ripple effects throughout the community; providing fresh food options while also supporting a local business who in turn supports local farmers, ranchers, and other small businesses,” Balaski said.

Last year CMHA reached out to community members and partners to understand what food supports people were needing.

Most on low incomes said they were not able to afford fresh produce and protein.

“Often, the people we spoke with had health conditions, like diabetes, that made it important to have non-processed food, but were finding this to be unaffordable,” said Balaski.

“Eating in a nutritious, balanced way has a positive impact on our mental and physical health which means having access to healthy food is incredibly important. This project has helped with that for some people.”

The boxes are available in a variety of sizes for individuals, couples or families. They generally contain basic fruit and vegetable staples but can be customized.

“We want to make sure that the included items are things people will use and enjoy,” Balaski said, noting they have tried to keep the program as accessible as possible.

Read More: Food security network coming to Quesnel thanks to $50K provincial grant

By ordering through Long Table Grocery, boxes have been either delivered by the specialty grocery store or picked up.

Balaski said the produce boxes would be available until CMHANBC has exhausted the donation.

“This will mean around 250 produce boxes will be distributed by the end of the program,” she added.

Brainstorming of ways to allow for the program to continue into the future has already occurred.

This summer, CMHANBC will be launching a food rescue redistribution centre in partnership with the City of Quesnel and Sprout Kitchen, which may help with this, Balaski said.

“This will allow us to provide alternative options, such as a market-style food bank using food rescued from local sources while also supporting our community partners by storing and distributing rescued food to their organizations as needed,” she said.

“So in one form or another, we will continue to find a way to get more fresh food sources out to the community.”

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