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Community Kitchen Program of Calgary join forces with communities to feed Calgarians

By Jacey Conway, Federation of Calgary Communities

The Community Kitchen Program of Calgary has joined forces with local community organizations, including some of Calgary’s community associations, to promote healthy eating through affordable and readily available fresh produce boxes.

The Community Kitchen Program of Calgary is a non-profit organization on a mission to reduce hunger in and around Calgary. Through their many programs, including the Good Food Box (GFB), they have fed thousands of Calgarians each year and continue to grow that number as other community organizations get involved.

A volunteer holds a box of fresh produce at the Community Kitchen Program of Calgary, 2019.

GFB is one of the many programs they put on and provides Calgarians a means to purchase market-fresh produce at an affordable price.

The GFB program started about 15 years ago after its founder, Marylin Gunn, brought to life her dream of helping Calgarians afford fresh produce.

“She wanted to feed more Calgarians,” explained Sundae Nordin, executive director of the Community Kitchen Program of Calgary.

The GFB program is made possible by over 2,300 volunteers who devote numerous hours each week to packing, delivering and distributing the boxes to communities in and around Calgary.

The boxes come in either a small, medium or large size, in order to suit the needs of various family sizes. Each box contains the same produce items, the size of the box only determines the quantity of produce put into each box.

Judy Anderson, community relations of GFB, often personalizes the boxes if she can by researching suitable recipes and adding them to the boxes. The recipes are a small part of the box but can help those who may not be familiar with all the produce.

Mitch Kennedy, a GFB distributer at the Highland Park Community Association, said that in addition to the positive feedback from those who have purchased a box, he has been able to get to know more people in his community through the program that he otherwise might have never met.

“It creates connections in the community,” said Kennedy.

Community Kitchen Program of Calgary can keep the cost of the boxes down by purchasing directly from wholesalers and changing the selection of produce weekly in order to get what is in season and most affordable.

Ian Undseth and Lori Herrick oversee buying the fresh produce and their shared experience, spanning over 10 years each, ensures they get the best and freshest produce available.

“We have the buying power, so we are able to keep the cost down,” said Herrick.

‘You guys are the best-kept secret’

The Community Kitchen Program of Calgary hopes to expand the program in order to promote wellness and “get fresh produce back on tables.” They encourage possible distributers to reach out and implement the GFB program in their community.

Good Food Boxes packed and ready to go out for distribution, 2019. Thousands of people across Calgary get the boxes each month.

The Calgary Marlborough Community Association (CMCA) has seen the positive impact the GFB program has had on their community. They encourage other communities to get involved.

Randy White has been distributing the boxes at the CMCA and has heard a lot of positive feedback.

The boxes aren’t customizable, so there’s no way to see what produce will be in the boxes. White said the quality is always good. He’s purchased the box several times himself and he is always “amazed” at how fresh it all is.

White suggests that if the box contains a product that won’t be used, pass it on to a friend or neighbour.

The Community Kitchen Program of Calgary is evolving the program as they go, to suit the needs of the buyers and they look forward to building up their program.

The program is available for all Calgarians—regardless of their financial situation. In fact, all of their staff and volunteers refer to the program as a “hands up program” rather than a handout program.

“Somebody said to me, ‘you guys are the best-kept secret’ – I don’t want to be a secret anymore,” said Nordin.