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Thanksgiving in a box encourages healthy eating

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

October 10, 2020

People showing up at the GROW Community Food Literacy Centre in downtown Niagara Falls on Saturday morning to pick up their "Thanksgiving in a box" probably hadn’t had a chance to hit the gym yet.

That’s probably just as well: manhandling the big boxes overflowing with a huge assortment of foodstuffs was a workout on its own.

To mark the season of giving thanks, the market that opened up in August in a former Scouts Canada building on Fourth Avenue, and which offers low-cost food each Saturday morning, held its first Thanksgiving-themed day. For just $5, clients carted away boxes loaded with hams donated by Kent Farms of St. Davids, and all the ingredients needed to make the fanciest of Thanksgiving dinners, including stuffing, a loaf of bread, celery, dried peas, broccoli, onions, carrots, potatoes, chicken or vegetable stock, apples, a lemon and a variety of herbs including parsley, dill, rosemary and thyme.

One woman who stood in line with her grandson said she’s a regular at the market. The woman, who didn’t want her name used, said she has two 13-year-old grandchildren whose jackrabbit-like metabolism devours food.

“They’re always eating and drinking something, so this really helps,” she said. “It’s great. We appreciate all they’ve done here.”

Pam Farrell, executive director of GROW, said the idea for the Thanksgiving in a box event was sparked by Kent Farms, which donated 35 hams.

Members of the Niagara Falls Rotary Club jumped on board to donate the fixings, while GROW volunteer Rose Iannacchino donated banana bread loafs. The boxes also had recipes whipped up by GROW volunteers, such as pea soup made from leftover ingredients and stuffing recipes.

The all-volunteer GROW agency has a mission to broaden the availability of healthy, affordable food in the downtown while engaging the community in growing their own food, experiencing the joys of gardening and harvesting food, and learning or rediscovering the pleasure of cooking and eating healthy food.

Farrell said lineups at the market that’s open to people who can show they live below the low-income cut-off have been growing steadily, to the point where it’s serving up food to feed 140 to 160 each market day now.

“They (lines) really are getting bigger,” she said. “It just shows how much this type of market is needed.”

On Saturday, people wearing masks and physically distanced stretched across the parking lot to the sidewalk.

Farrell said it’s common to hear from clients how important the market has become to them. One woman, Diane, said it’s helped her and her husband to make ends meet and put food on the table.

“This makes the community stronger,” the woman told Farrell. “It’s like being a big family together and helping each other out.”

Farrell said those kinds of comments reinforce the need for the market and for upcoming plans to run cooking classes in the centre’s kitchen once it gets a new kitchen, covering topics such as Indigenous cooking, blind/low vision cooking, food preservation/canning, cooking for critical illness survivors, cooking for diabetes and food and mental health.

Community meals are also planned to start eventually.

“Some of the feedback we’ve gotten has been so reaffirming of our mission, the fact that people will eat more vegetables and eat healthier and stretch their budget,” said Farrell.

She hopes the boxes full of food will encourage people who might be rusty at whipping up a full, healthy meal to experiment in their kitchens. She remembers coming to Canada from her native Switzerland and having to learn how to make stuffing because stuffing is a foreign concept to the Swiss.

“Some people might feel apprehensive about using fresh herbs,” said Farrell. “(But) when you pull something out of the oven and it’s like it’s supposed to be, it’s pretty exciting, it’s pretty rewarding.”

Niagara This Week - Niagara Falls

Saturday, October 10, 2020



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