If you are looking for healthy, more affordable produce in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington area, you may want to visit a Good Food Stand. Since August 2018, these stands have been popping up monthly at local high schools and welcoming community members to come check them out.
The stands are part of a 12-month pilot project taken on as part of the community’s Poverty Reduction Initiative. Together, United Way of KFL&A and the City of Kingston came together to co-chair a Food Advisory Committee and the committee has worked diligently to develop strategies, like the Good Food Stand, to address food access.
“It has been about a year and a half process,” explained Cheryl Hitchen, Manager, Social Policy and Strategic Community Development at the City of Kingston. “When we all came together and brainstormed, we realized we could not directly deal with the issue of money – a common barrier in food access – so we started brainstorming ways that the committee could help and that led to the idea of the Good Food Stand.”
The Good Food Stand pilot is a collaborative effort with many organizations across the region including partners from Kingston Community Health Centres, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, and KFL&A Public Health who have come together to co-develop and launch the initiative. The pilot also includes Tony Deodato & Sons who are supplying the fresh produce for the stands.
“We are excited about all of the multi-sectoral partnerships that made this initiative come together,” said Bhavana Varma, President & CEO of United Way of KFL&A. “It is our hope that the program will make it easier for people across the region to access fresh produce, and as a result, eat healthier. This project came together really quickly and I can’t say enough about the energy and enthusiasm of everyone on the committee.”
The Community Foundation of Kingston & Area, City of Kingston and United Way provide funding for the stand coordinator position and program delivery through Kingston Community Health Centres, while KFL&A Public Health provides marketing and evaluation support with both school boards and union members supporting the venues. Other local agencies and coalition partners provide their expertise and advice on running the program.
Kathy Sturmey is the Food Stand Coordinator and operates the stands each month. Sturmey has worked with the Community Harvest Market in Kingston for the past 10 years and she was excited to take on this new initiative.
“It is really exciting to have something that can operate year round,” she said. “These stands really and truly provide access which helps alleviate food insecurity in Kingston and the surrounding areas and that is so necessary.”
The stands currently operate one day a month at Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School, Sydenham High School, Napanee District Secondary School, La Salle Secondary School and Bayridge Secondary School.
“The schools have been so supportive and that has been amazing,” said Sturmey. “Some are busier than others, but we really wanted to have a broad reach and the schools have really helped us connect with each area of the community. Plus, it allows the students to get involved and have access as well.”
The main focus for the stands now is creating awareness and getting people to come out each month.
“We’ve worked to make sure the stands are accessible, non-judgemental and with lots of variety and now we just need people to know about them and come out each month,” said Sturmey. “We really want to build community through these stands and that takes time, but we will get there.”
Feedback from those who have frequented the stands has been positive and Sturmey has seen repeat customers as well. The stands also provide recipes to help individuals with their meals as well as vouchers to help those that still struggle with the price point of fresh produce.
“We want to make a program that helps them and provides sustainability,” explained Sturmey. “We want people to feel welcomed, and there is no stigma associated with the stand.”
For their part, the City of Kingston is pleased to see the stands doing well and serving the community. Hitchen hopes that the stands can keep growing and filling gaps for years to come.
“We have nothing but positive things to say about it so far,” she said. “We really hope this is just the first of many projects like this going forward. This really has gotten the ball rolling and we are pleased with the outcomes we have seen so far.”
For more information about the Good Food Access plan for KFL&A, and a complete schedule for the five Good Food Stand locations in KFL&A visit: www.goodfoodstand-kfla.ca or email Good Food Stand Coordinator, Kathy Sturmey at: firstname.lastname@example.org