The Canadian government announced $1.5 million for the Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) as funding for its Market Greens initiative, which works to increase food access for people living in low-income communities.
"Living on a low income can make accessing nutritious foods a challenge. Particularly now as our economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic," Canadian Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said in a press release. "We are very pleased to support the growth of initiatives like Market Greens that have shown success in helping to remove financial barriers, ensuring more Canadians have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This in turn will help improve their health and reduce their risk of chronic disease."
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought food insecurity into the spotlight as so many people have lost their jobs.
Food insecurity has long since been an issue in Canada. More than 1 in 8 households — which amounts to 4.4 million people — were food insecure in 2017-2018, according to the Food Insecurity Policy Institute (PROOF).
Prior to the pandemic, more than 1 million people already visited food banks in one month, according to Food Banks Canada. By May, just two months into the pandemic, Food Banks Canada CEO Chris Hatch told CTV News that they’d already seen a 20% increase in food bank use over eight weeks.
The new government funding will go towards expanding the Market Greens program to about 30 locations across the country.
Access to nutritious food is important for good health. Initiatives like Market Greens help to remove financial barriers, ensuring more Canadians have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. https://t.co/65faqEpAnapic.twitter.com/1z0NiBzvYa— Patty Hajdu (@PattyHajdu) July 15, 2020
The program increases access to low-cost fresh produce markets that they set up and provides fruit and vegetable vouchers that can be used at participating local stores, too.
"We believe increasing access to fresh, healthy food through non-profit markets and offering subsidized access to healthy food for people living on low incomes at risk for chronic disease makes good sense," said Kathryn Scharf, chief programs officer for CFCC. "Market Greens will show that a simple, low-cost investment upstream in making fresh fruits and vegetables an easy and affordable choice can play a role in preventing illnesses that come at great human and economic cost when treated downstream."
Some fruit and vegetable markets will also offer food demonstrations, providing tips and recipes from Canada’s Food Guide in an effort to help people learn about healthy eating on a budget.
The CFCC’s voucher program will be addressed to groups most vulnerable to food insecurity, including newcomers, Indigenous people, people with chronic disease, and households with young children.
The CFCC also plans to launch a new program in which physicians at certain health centres will be able to provide prescriptions for fruits and vegetables — primarily to low-income individuals who are living with chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes — that can then be filled at participating markets.