Jan 21, 2019
Senior Communication Specialist
Bow Valley College
Bow Valley College promotes food security for students by selling fresh produce on campus
CALGARY – Bow Valley College has teamed up with Fresh Routes mobile produce market to provide learners a chance to access fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. The farmer’s-market-style display takes place every Wednesday as part of an initiative to promote food security, healthy lifestyle, academic performance, and a sense of community.
The delicious idea came from an informal survey of over 15,000 domestic and international learners focusing on financial empowerment.
“One of the things that is really important with our financial empowerment initiatives is finding out where their stress points are,” says Lynn Connell, Director, Learner Success Services. “We were surprised to receive nearly 650 detailed and thoughtful responses to three questions about their expenses.”
Learners were asked to list what they struggled paying for while attending post-secondary. Access to affordable, fresh and accessible food ranked fourth as a major concern, despite the fact that many students are either working full or part time, receiving student loans or bursaries or live with family.
Connell says the answers inspired the formation of a food security working group, as well as a partnership between the college and Fresh Routes mobile market. Each week, staff and volunteers set up tables brimming with fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread, and some non-perishables such as broth, beans and soup right in the heart of The Market.
“In terms of the location, it was really important to Fresh Routes that their mobile market be in an easily accessible space so that the food was available to the broader community,” Connell states. “We chose space on second floor where so many students and staff are gathering for lunch and meetings.”
Rob Ironside, co-founder and director of Fresh Routes, says the mobile market concept is a burgeoning idea in Calgary, and is capturing attention at the post-secondary level.
“Food access and food security is what we are trying to address, especially since recent statistics state that four million Canadians are struggling to afford healthy food. The idea behind his organization is to bring fresh, healthy and affordable food into communities and populations where they may face a barrier.”
He adds the organization is trying to address three basic barriers for Bow Valley College learners.
“We’re trying to keep our prices down on campus by buying wholesale, keeping our displays simple, and getting help from Bow Valley College volunteers. Then we want to make the food easy to access because some students may live close to downtown and can’t get to a grocery store easily. As well, we focus on education about how to manage a healthy and affordable diet.”
Although buying local and offering organic is a priority, Ironside says cost will the override to keep items affordable.
“When you are a student trying to manage debit, a part-time job or a family, it’s a luxury that you just can’t afford local or organic all the time, especially in winter. We’re always looking for ways to add value per dollar. That’s why we may not always have the same products every week.”
Stacie Baker, Manager, Learner Financial Empowerment at Bow Valley College, says affording quality food while going to college has always been a major worry for learners. Now it’s a part of a much needed national conversation.
“It was always a running joke way back when that we lived on a macaroni and cheese budget. Today, the topic is taken very seriously. Post-secondary students are coming to class hungry, tired and unable to concentrate because they are not able to afford or access healthy food.”
She adds the college already offers Fresh Fruit Fridays, with apples, oranges and bananas available for students in various spots on campus, and there’s always potential for more ideas.
“Now that we’ve started this group, we’re building awareness with experts and partners who want to get involved. We’re looking at initiatives like a learner food bank, community gardens, cooking and nutrition classes and promoting environmental sustainability. We also want to make sure we keep the lens of universal design and cultural diversity.”
The Fresh Routes produce market takes place on the second floor cafeteria area (The Market), South Campus, 345 6 Avenue SE in downtown Calgary, every Wednesday, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. Purchases can be made with cash, credit or debit.
For more information, visit Fresh Routes website https://yyc.rescuefood.ca/cmm-project/.
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Media Relations Officer
Bow Valley College
About Bow Valley College
Bow Valley College - Calgary and region's only Comprehensive Community College - with more than 15,000 full- and part-time students, is a leader in business and health career training, community studies, creative technologies, adult upgrading, and English Language Learning.