The fight to make fresh food easily accessible and affordable in the Halifax Regional Municipality is expanding, thanks to a social enterprise aimed at tackling food insecurity and waste.
The Square Roots program works with farms in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley to purchase “imperfect” produce and then package and resell it for $10 a bundle.
“So they’re potatoes that are too big or they’re heart-shaped, or the apples are huge, [the] kind of thing that grocery stores won’t take that would otherwise go to waste,” said Square Roots project co-manager Christine Ingham.
“The farmers are making a profit off of food that would otherwise go to waste, people are getting vegetables at a reasonable cost, our franchise managers are making money off of this, so it’s [all] going directly back into the community,” she adds. “It really is a win for everyone.”
Square Roots is now operating out of four new locations in HRM once a month. The four new communities joining the Square Roots program include Cherry Brook, Fairview, Dartmouth and Eastern Passage, where the local legion is offering space to the program to sell its produce.
“To have proper nutrition for a growing family — kids, adults alike — that’s the foundation for good mental health,” said Mike Thurston, first vice-president with the Eastern Passage Legion.
“Sometimes people can’t [afford fresh produce] — they’re pinched a little too tight. So we try to help them out as much as we can,” he said.
Shirley Mcfeters is one of the new Square Roots franchise owners. She says if people can’t afford to spend $10 on one of the 10-lb. bags of food, Square Roots will accept $5.
“Regardless if it’s $5 or $10, it’s still 10 lbs. of food. So it helps people that normally couldn’t afford these types of fruits and vegetables,” Mcfeters said.
Customers like Matt Beazley are glad to see the program expand.
“I think it’s a great program,” he said. “It’s supporting local, it’s about eating healthy food, and those are two things that I stand behind.”
At the moment, Square Roots only operates within HRM, but that’s something program managers are hoping to change.
“We’re looking to expand across Nova Scotia,” Ingham explained. “We’ve been in talks in Cape Breton, in Truro, [and] most recently a little discussion in Yarmouth.
“So I’m really on the hunt for passionate people all across the province, and farms that are looking to sell us their ‘seconds’ produce.”
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