Everybody Eats, thanks to Farmers Market
Mel Green of Green Masks stands next to a vegetable vendor's wares at the Pembroke Farmer's Market. She has started the Everybody Eats program, which collects and sells fresh food at a fraction of the cost so people who normally wouldn't be able to afford it can have access to nutritious food.
Not everyone eats regularly or healthy, but one program growing out of the Pembroke Farmer's Market aims to help fix it.
Mel Green, who operates the business Green Masks, helped get this new program Everybody Eats off the ground back in August. It is a cooperative effort between the market vendors and other agencies.
“We have teamed up with our local community resources such as community mental health and the local food bank and Ontario disability in order to connect with low income individuals in the community who want to eat local fresh produce and baked goods from our market but can't afford to,” she said.
“We sell our food boxes at 30 per cent of their retail price in order to make fresh local nutritious food for a fraction of the price,” Green explained. “Two full cardboard boxes typically totals $70, and at 30 per cent of the retail price, it comes to a total of only $21 for them to buy.”
To date, no decision has been made by the Pembroke Farmers' Market how best to use the funds within the community.
“I try to keep it discreet,” Green said. “I don't ask for any names and I don't ask that they come pick them up. I bring it straight to their door discreetly. It has been very successful so far.”
For its first year, the Everyone Eats program was one of the most successful initiatives of the year for our community, selling $900 worth of fresh food at deep discounts to those who would otherwise not have access to it. She said it was well received by local organizations, community members, and the farmers and craft vendors who generously donated at the end of every market day.
“Overall and together we helped make farm fresh food available to hundreds of people in Pembroke and surrounding area who would otherwise not have access to nutritious and local food due to financial restrictions and/or mobility troubles,” Green said.
The program has helped six local families directly, and through the Salvation Army served 150 people a day with meals augmented by the fresh produce.
Green said she had to thank Salvation Army Pembroke and Hillsboro Mental Health for acting as liaisons in setting up direct-to-family box options, and those farmer;s market vendors who regularly contributed to the program.
They include Sheedy Farms, madebytheresa, Hill Top Gardens, Hodgins Produce, Horst Home Baking, Jennicajems Wearable Art Designs, Martin's Gardens, Elliot's Produce, McGregor's Produce, Two Girls and a Stove, Three Hill Farm, El Camino Jams, Valley Samosa, A Taste of Confection, and Agnes the Pie Lady.
Green said this has been a great success, considering things were started late in the season. She said for next year she is hoping to expand it to get more of the community involved.
“I'm hoping to get ODSP, Carefor, The Grind, and Children's Protective Services on board, and the grocery stores,” she said. Green is also hoping to recruit volunteers to help her deal with an expanded program.
“I'm looking for volunteers to help either with the delivery, keeping records, collecting donations and so forth,” she said.
To contact her, go through her business' Facebook account Green Masks by Mel Green, located at https://www.facebook.com/GreenMasksMelGreen/