The province is chipping in $100,000 to build a community food centre in northwest Winnipeg.
NorWest Co-op Community Health is planning to open the centre in January 2014, which will include a commercial-grade kitchen, communal dining area, community gardens and an outdoor bake oven.
"Food is a powerful connecting tool — it brings people together," centre director Kristina McMillan said at a news conference on Aug. 21.
"And if we eat the good stuff, it brings us health and makes us feel strong. When it’s grown and cooked and shared together it builds community."
The centre, which will be located at 103-61 Tyndall Ave., will offer area residents free drop-in meals and a low-cost produce market, along with cooking, gardening and healthy eating courses, McMillan said.
"Access to healthy food is not universal," she said, noting many immigrants see a "rapid" change in their diets when they come to Canada and their incomes drop.
"Residents regularly dip into food budgets for rent due to lack of affordable housing. Low incomes cause families to purchase foods that aren’t health-bringing.
"They’re packaged, they’re processed, they’re laden with sugars, fats, and salts, and the result of this is we see high rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes."
NorWest is partnering with Community Food Centres Canada, which has a network of centres in Ontario. The Winnipeg location is believed to be the first in western Canada and will open alongside a new centre in Dartmouth, N.S.
McMillan said she’s still consulting with the community to finalize the mix of programs the centre will offer before opening.
"I’ve spoken to church leaders, housing co-ops, seniors groups, tenants groups, and schools and everybody in between," she said.
"People are excited and hopeful for the change this can bring the community."
The province is funding the centre through its Building and Renewal Plan, funded by the one-point PST increase announced in the 2013 budget.
Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux said he couldn’t think of a better investment to make with the increase.
"Often governments get questioned about tax dollars and PST increases… and where do those dollars go?" he said.
"Well, you don’t have to look very far if you look at this announcement and the value that $100,000 is going to have for this community."
NorWest is still looking for funders for the centre, which will cost about $500,000. Community Food Centres Canada is providing the centre with some capital and operating funds, McMillan said.
For more, visit www.norwestcoop.ca.