The Cambridge Food Bank is officially launching its tenth Mobile Food Market location, serving nutritious fruits and vegetables with a side of dignity.
With rising food costs, more people than ever are struggling to put food on the table with the latest Food Bank's Canada hunger report indicating a 35% increase in food bank use across Canada.
The Cambridge Food Bank has long been an advocate of equitable food systems.
They believe everyone in their community should have access to nutritious, affordable and culturally relevant food.
The food bank grows food, diverts good food from landfill through its Food Rescue program, and equitably distributes food to those in their community with a focus on choice, respect and dignity.
While the Cambridge Food Bank is best known for its free emergency hamper distribution program, that is just one of the many services they offer and the reason they are more than a food bank.
Not content to simply hand out boxes of food, the food bank provides various programs designed to build healthy people and a connected community, said Dianne McLeod, Executive Director for the Cambridge Food Bank.
One of the innovative ways they support our community is the Mobile Food Market, launched in July of 2021, which travels to a variety of neighbourhoods and provides fruit and vegetables at a price people can afford.
“We spent considerable time surveying people who use the food bank, asking them what we do well and where we could improve. We heard that people wanted the sense of pride and dignity that comes with purchasing their food, despite having limited financial resources,” said McLeod.
“They also told us that they sometimes felt a stigma about accessing charitable food programs and would go without the nutritious food they needed to maintain their health.”
From this feedback, the Mobile Food Market was born. It started with four locations and 60 shoppers each week. This past summer, some weeks saw 600 shoppers from all walks of life gathering in neighbourhoods, developing friendships and building a sense of community.
For a flat fee of $5, shoppers will receive a variety of produce, usually five to six types. The produce options change weekly, and the menu is posted every Monday on their social media channels.
“We have excellent partnerships with local farmers and purchase as much of the produce as close to home as possible. It costs us approximately $10 a person to purchase the food each week, so we need a variety of shoppers to keep the program sustainable. Shoppers who can pay more help to subsidize those who pay the $5 accessible rate,” McLeod said.
“There are no questions asked, and it's based on the honour system, we want the market to be as low-barrier as possible. Shoppers who contribute more than $5 still get delicious food much lower than retail costs. The added bonus is that initiatives like this include our entire community and reduce stigma by normalizing access to our services.”
Not sure what to do with that kohlrabi or black radish? The food bank also offers free zoom workshops focusing on cooking with the food provided at the Market.
“It's a wonderful community of people who look forward to getting together every week,” said Amy Slack, operations manager for Cambridge Food Bank.
“While people learn new things and have incredible knowledge to share with others. Not only are the participants preparing and eating nutritious food, but they are also building a community of people who care about each other.”
How you can help
The Mobile Food Market is a community project built by and for our community. Your support, whether it's shopping at the market and paying what you can afford, volunteering your time or sponsoring a week of produce purchases, makes it possible for the food bank to ensure that no one goes hungry.
Call (519) 622-6550 ext. 206 or email email@example.com for more information.