A community centre in Dartmouth North has been providing low-cost produce and ideas on how to use it for a little more than a year and will soon be doing even more.
The Dartmouth North Community Food Centre opened in August 2015. Several months before it opened, manager Deborah Dickey held leadership training with a group of residents to talk about developing a low-cost produce market at the centre. Once it opened, the Good Food Market and Café started operating as one of the centre’s first programs.
Run by the same residents who took part in the leadership training, Dickey said it was about more than just starting a market.
“It started out as we wanted to bring low-cost produce to the community, but also we wanted to create kind of a fun, social environment for people. So we thought we would offer coffee and tea and have some seating so people could purchase produce but then also stay and chat with their neighbour,” Dickey said.
She said community interest in the seating grew and it was decided to expand the café side, which had an added benefit of helping people learn how to use the food.
The café provided residents with free food, such as salad, and volunteers and staff to talk about recipes they could then try to make using the food from the market side.
On Tuesday, the centre was named winner of $100,000 from the Aviva Community Fund, which will allow them to purchase more food to then sell back to residents at an affordable cost. They will also use the money to pay for equipment to allow for food demonstrations, and explore the idea of a video about the market to increase awareness.
Winning the money, Dickey said, was a community effort as after a proposal is made, the a project needs online votes to make the top five.
“You really try and engage the community and get people to support the project,” Dickey said.
“We had people who didn’t have email addresses who asked, ‘Can you help me get an email address so that I can vote for you guys,’ you know, and they were encouraging their neighbours to come down and vote and there was a really nice kind of side effect of the community coming together.”
Money now in hand, Dickey said it’s still about giving back to the community.
“For me, it always comes back to the community of residents,” Dickey said. “There is no way we would be able to run this market and café without the community stepping up and saying, ‘Yeah I will come in every week and I will help prepare food and I will help do dishes, and all of these things.'”