Orangeville Food Bank launches Neighbours Community Market in Shelburne and Grand Valley

August 10, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Residents in the rural areas of Dufferin County will now have the opportunity to choose how much they pay for their weekly fruits and vegetables with the launch of a new community market.

The Orangeville Food Bank has officially launched its ‘Neighbours Community Market,’ a sliding-scale weekly produce market in Shelburne and Grand Valley.

The Neighbours Community Market is a pilot project for the Orangeville Food Bank, which will see produce products placed on a sliding scale for price. The food bank will purchase a variety of produce depending on the season and demands and will give customers the opportunity to pay either retail value, 50 per cent of retail value and as low as 30 per cent of retail price. 

“The purpose of the market is to ensure that people have access to healthy nutritious foods and hopefully, regardless of circumstances, that they can have the dignity that they need to purchase food their family needs to thrive,” said Heather Hayes, executive director for the Orangeville Food Bank. “When we look at those accessing the food bank, 90 per cent are taking fruits and vegetables; the kinds of food that are the most costly in any budget.”

The weekly sliding-scale produce market will be open to anyone in the community, such as post-secondary students, seniors, and even those not facing food insecurity directly.

A significant factor that the market’s ‘open for all community members’ policy is looking to mitigate is the ‘them vs us’ stigma that can be affiliated with food insecurity.

“If we can offer programs that support anybody on the spectrum of food security, whether you are very secure or very insecure, it helps provide dignity and takes some of the stigma away,” explained Hayes. “We’re trying to take that stigma away for accessing food because food insecurity is a continuum and like any other bank, sometimes you make deposits and sometimes you make withdrawals.”

Another factor the market is looking to address is the accessibility of food programs for rural residents.

“There’s less access to food programs when you move into smaller communities because the resources just aren’t there, and we know that people are experiencing food insecurity in greater numbers. It used to be that when you thought about food insecurity, you were trying to find ways to get people to the food and now what we’re trying to do is get food to the people.”

The pilot project for the local sliding-scale produce markets will run until December. At that point, the Orangeville Food Bank will look at the feasibility of continuing the program into the new year.

“What I would love to see is that this program, in the next few months, demonstrates that it is possible to run a pay what you can market and run a revenue neutral program, which means the expenses and income cancel each other out,” said Hayes.

The Shelburne Neighbours Community Market will be open every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Centre Dufferin Recreation Complex. The Grand Valley Neighbours Community Market will be located at the Grand Valley Public Library and is open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Thursday.

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