‘By the community, for the community’: Digby area gets accessible, affordable fresh food option

The Fresh Food Box team (Contributed).
The Fresh Food Box team (Contributed).

“Everyone deserves healthy food, but an alarming number of people living in the Digby area find it hard to put fresh vegetables and fruit on their table,” said Jennifer Lamrock, a health promoter with Public Health in Digby County. 

For many members of the rural area, buying fresh produce isn’t something that their budget allows.

Knowing this, Public Health decided to take advantage of an opportunity presented by the Halifax Mobile Food Market to help find a solution for the Digby area.

In 2018, the market reached out to Public Health in Annapolis Valley, South Shore and South West to partner in creating a food access project in rural Nova Scotia. Then, Fresh Food Box was born.

The initiative, known at the time as the Digby Food Project, was shaped by the success of the Halifax Mobile Food Market model, but was adapted to meet the needs of the Digby area. 

Besides the support from the Halifax Mobile Food Market team and Public Health staff in the area, the project was brought to life with the help of a project coordinator, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s primary health care staff and dedicated community volunteers.

“This is a neighbours-helping-neighbours project,” said Beth Costello, Fresh Food Box Coordinator. “Fresh Food Box is a community-based initiative created by the community, for the community.”

As of June, Fresh Food Box started selling seasonal produce packs. The packs are available to order every second Thursday until mid-fall, with the aim of providing affordable, easily accessible, quality produce to those living in Digby and surrounding communities. 

“This project is playing an important role in our community,” shared Costello, explaining how this has lightened the financial worries for residents. “Many people who access this service would have to choose between groceries or paying bills without this service.”

Pick-up sites are found in various neighbourhoods, including the Town of Digby, Bear River and Weymouth, and as far as Digby Neck and Digby Islands.

The multiple pick-up sites are a key aspect of the project, with locations in even the most rural parts of the area, like the Islands Women’s Centre in Freeport.

“We have wonderful convenience stores here on the islands, but the prices reflect the increased cost of having the food brought in,” said Courtney Trowse, who operates the Islands Women’s Centre.

Unfortunately, those who couldn’t travel the hour from Freeport to Digby were forced to pay the expensive prices, or go without. Now, Fresh Food Box offers the community a much needed alternative of buying a family produce pack for $10 or a single produce pack for $6. 

With the support of the Atlantic Superstore in Digby, local food producers, and local organizations and businesses, Fresh Food Box is able to supply an average of 120 produce packs every month to residents in five communities.

“No one should be going hungry or missing out on the crispy, juicy crunch of a fresh apple when we live in a province with such abundance,” Trowse added.

To learn more, visit www.freshfoodbox.org.