August 17, 2020
Some of the people heading to the new low-cost market operated by the new GROW Community Food Literacy Centre in downtown Niagara Falls are people whose finances have been turned upside down by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fourth Avenue market, which had its official opening on Saturday, is designed to ensure that people in the downtown have better access to healthy, fresh food at an affordable price. It is open to people who can show they live below the low-income cut-off.
Pam Farrell, the volunteer executive director of GROW, said that ever since the market had its unofficial opening a week earlier, she’s already heard from people showing up how devastating the pandemic has been for them financially. Thousands of Niagara Falls residents were put out of work in March when the pandemic hit, and countless employers such as the casinos, Great Wolf Lodge and other attractions had to shut their doors to slow the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
Some of those major employers remain closed five months later.
“We’re hearing a lot of heart-wrenching stories, people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic,” said Farrell. “It’s tough to make ends meet.”
But Farrell said the market, which will run from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each Saturday, has created a buzz in the downtown. Dozens of people were there for the official opening.
“The word is getting out,” said Farrell. “People are excited about the opportunity to come and shop here.”
Fayth Swain, a Grade 12 student at Stamford Collegiate Secondary School who is a volunteer at the market, told those gathered at Saturday’s official opening that healthy food has the power to build health and connect the community. Farrell said a big reason why the market was located where it is, in a former longtime Scouts Canada building, is because of the shortage of supermarkets in the area.
Swain said the food being sold at wholesale prices in the market also means it’s more affordable to low-income people who might otherwise be forced to eat unhealthy food.
“When people shop for fruits and vegetables at the low-cost market, their money goes a lot further and they can head home with loads of fresh ingredients to prepare healthy meals,” she said.
Mayor Jim Diodati said the former Scouts location played a part in shaping young people through the Scouts’ programs, to build skills and character by earning badges for uniforms.
“It’s created a lot of good leaders in our community,” he said. “Now we’re going to do the same thing: we’re going to create a lot of good leaders in our community, but now it’s going to be through our stomachs instead of badges.
“It’s a wonderful purpose.”
Regional councillor Barb Greenwood, who presented Farrell with a plaque commemorating the opening, said there is definitely a need for the low-cost market in the downtown area.
“This is a phenomenal idea,” she told the gathering.
Swain said Diodati helped provide guidance and contacts when approached about the idea for the food literacy centre, and his office wrote letters of support for funding applications.
In addition to some funding from the federal government numerous local corporate partners stepped up to help with contributions and support, she said.
Niagara This Week - Niagara Falls
Monday, August 17, 2020