Grand opening good neighbours food market

Carol Baldwin/LJI Reporter/Wakaw Recorder Ribbon cutting at Good Neighbours Food Centre Food Market.

Carol Baldwin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wakaw Recorder

Executive Director Betty Rudachyk opened the ceremonies for the Grand Opening of the Good Neighbours Food Centre Food Market, a newly transformed food bank in the Town of Rosthern.

Keeping with the philosophy of giving people a hand-up, rather than a hand-out, the free store model provides dignity to those experiencing food insecurity. A soft opening was held on May 24 and since that time 21 new families have started to come and access the services provided. June 14 saw 79 families come through the doors of GNFC Food Market to receive food assistance.

“This affirms that we are doing the right thing because those people have been sitting quietly in their homes, struggling with some level of food insecurity, feeling humble, feeling embarrassed, maybe somewhat ashamed, and they have felt that this is a more normalized kind of experience,” Rudachyk said. “It has allowed them to go past their emotional and social barriers to come in and shop like they would at any grocery store.”

The market is run by a volunteer board, and staffed by volunteers. Rudachyk, Operations Manager Chanda Viczko, Volunteer Coordinator Mackenzie Hamm, and summer student Ethan Taylor-Rempel are the only paid staff. 

Rosthern mayor, Dennis Helmuth, spoke at the ceremony, commending the staff, board, and volunteers “for embracing a new way of doing things.” He went on to note that people and organizations can get locked into certain patterns of doing things quite easily and that pattern becomes a default position for year in, and year out.

Helmuth said it is commendable that Good Neighbours Food Centre could find a way to be more meaningful, more impactful, and more empowering to the people it serves while still carrying on the vision of those who ‘got the ball rolling’ initially.

“It takes real courage, to step forward, to embrace new models of how we deliver services,” he said.

It’s an idea that’s been years in the making, Rudachyk added.

Wilmer Froese, the original director and visionary, had a seed of an idea about what the Rosthern Food Bank, later the Good Neighbours Food Centre, could one day look like. He believed that eventually GNFC could be a place with a system that demonstrated more dignity, respect, and empowerment for people needing to access some food aid.

The next Executive Director, Nadine Enns, held a similar seed of thought. When Betty took on the position two years ago, she also harboured a small seed of a dream of what GNFC could be.

When Chanda joined the management team, she and Betty began discussing what she envisioned for GNFC. The seeds of ideas so many people had held for years, began to germinate and the vision grew. Six months ago, GNFC got a generous New Horizons for Seniors Grant from the Government of Canada. With this grant the GNFC purchased commercial refrigeration, freezing, and shelving units. Volunteers put everything in place, tweaking the layout and organization to make things run smoothly.

Froese who spoke during the Grand Opening said,

“It’s amazing … to have had the courage and vision and the insights to go ahead with this, because I think it is the right way … to give people dignity, to give them the choice,” said Froese, who spoke during the grand opening. “It is no longer a food bank but a food market. (It) is a good step forward. It takes courage.”

Elder Florence Peeteetuce has used the food bank for the past decade and says, she is happy with the new model.

“It’s just so awesome,” she said. “This makes you [feel] like you’re just shopping, buying your stuff. It’s better that way.”

Shopping companions assist ‘shoppers’ in navigating through the store, pointing out the choices and options they have based on the family size they are shopping for and the food items available.

“We work with intention, to make sure that people who come through our doors feel seen, heard, respected,” Rudachyk said. 

That respect has been a central philosophy of GNFC from the very beginning. As it continues to evolve it has remained true to its vision and mission to serve without judgement, respecting the dignity of all.

“In many ways, it is a culmination of a vision, that started eleven years ago,” one volunteer said. “Today we are seeing where the growth has taken place and the vision has expanded to include offering people a choice, which I think is just an incredible piece of building self-worth in a society where food security has become a bigger worry.”

With no government funding other than through grants, GNFC relies completely on donations and fundraising to stock the shelves. Rudachyk took the opportunity to thank the faithful corporate donors who contributed to filling the shelves: Friesen’s Bigway, Rosthern; Friesen’s Bigway, Hague; Michael’s Independent Grocer, Saskatoon; McNeil’s Independent Grocer, Saskatoon; Hepburn Co-op grocery store, Martensville grocery store, Martensville Co-op gas bar; Saskatoon Co-op gas bar in Rosthern; Dalmeny gas bar; Warman gas bar; Carmen Corner Meats; Friesen’s Meat Packing; Stonehill Farm; Dyck’s Potatoes; Nunweiler’s Flour Co., Ardent Mills; Cobbs Bakery; Horizon Pet Food and the SPCA.

Also, thanks were given to the Rosthern Ministerial Group, the many churches, faith communities, schools, service groups and individuals who donate food or money. Clients are welcome to come every two weeks for food aid and at the end of each Friday, the coolers will be empty, all that canned meat will be gone, and just about all the beans will be gone. The large tins of fruit will be gone, the soup will be gone, the oatmeal will be completely gone, and the pancake mix will probably be gone, so there are big holes to fill on the shelves and they start again every week. 

“I just hope that each of you will take what you’ve heard here today, what you’ve experienced here today, and share it in your communities, your circle of friends, (and) your neighbours because, really, we go back to neighbours helping neighbours,” Rudachyk said during her parting message. “Part of the way that we can help people is to share what’s happening here and encourage people to support us with money, with food, with connections to other rescue sites that can give us food so it doesn’t go to the landfill, or with volunteer hours. Come on, be part of our facility and our organization.”