Thinking outside the box

From left to right, Debbie Schutte and fourth year nursing students Hillary Archer, Francis Austria, Ben Wiebe, Robin Augier, Haily Holmes and Marie St. Louis are looking at ways to fund an expansion of the Good Food Box co-operative program. Ideally, that could mean growing its reach outside of the city, although that idea is still a few years away from becoming a reality. -- Photo submitted by Debbie Schutte.

A group of students are cooking up plans to expand the long-term reach of one of the city’s healthy eating co-operative programs.

For the last 14 years, Prince Albert families have looked to the non-profit Smart Families Good Food Box program as a low cost path to healthy eating. Starting this year, however, organizers are looking at ways to increase their accessibility, with the eventual goal of making the program available to residents outside of Prince Albert.

As part of that effort, a group of fourth year nursing students have been tasked with the challenge of finding ways to raise the roughly $6,000 needed.

“This program has been in the city for 14 years and nobody really knows about it,” said Hillary Archer, one of six nursing students working on the project. “We want to get the word out and we want everyone to know that the Good Food Box program is for everyone. The more people who purchase a box, the more food goes into the boxes.”

Recipients pay up to $25 for a food box, which is usually filled with fruits and vegetables, as well as some staple items, but the program relies on grants and government funding for its day-to-day operations. Archer said any program expansion and awareness campaign will require more funding, and with that goal in mind, they’re hoping to partner with the city’s arts and business community for two major fundraisers. Final plans haven’t been set yet, but ideally, they’ll be held before March 2019.

“When we made our budget as a board this year, we knew we’d need a little bit more to be able to grow this program to help the people in our community have more healthy food on the table,” said Debbie Schutte a program board member who’s also assisting the nursing students with their plans.

They’ve had some help so far from the City of Prince Albert, who voted to give the organization free parking for their delivery van in a high-visibility area, although the decision still requires a final vote at a formal council meeting. The group says the move will help increase their presence in the community while also cutting costs.

On average, the food box co-operative provides 2,000 boxes of food to customers every year. Some of their highest numbers came in 2015, when they provided roughly 2,400 boxes. They do provide some services for a few First Nations communities, but otherwise their activities outside the city are limited.

If all goes well with this first growth phase, the co-operative be a permanent fixture outside the community as well as in it.