This past fall we had the pleasure of sitting down with Kate Stenson, Executive Director for the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association, in our home of Calgary, AB. Of the many programs Kate supports in her role, one of her most notable to True Büch is the Fresh Food Basket. The Fresh Food Basket is one of the few programs in Calgary that offers fresh produce and other basic groceries without any identification or proof of income required. This allows people to participate anonymously and “shop” in a market style program, giving them the opportunity to choose what best suits their needs.
Where does your fresh food come from?
A lot of our food is donated in kind and then we have a set budget to purchase other items to run the program 50 weeks of the year. Our food comes from a variety of places throughout Calgary. We have incredible groups that support our program from monetary donations to physical goods. Cobs Bakery in Kensington will donate bread (and sometimes treats) and we have a team of volunteers that drives over on Sundays.
We also have a number of donations that come from community gardens, backyard gardeners, and the HSCA Farmers Market. These donations can range in size and quantity but it really helps us give people choice. If someone hates potatoes we really don’t want the only option for them to be potatoes. We try to make the whole experience [of accessing food in this way] as dignified and uplifting as we can. There’s power in having choice.
Typically, we also get bonus items such as treats from Cobs Bakery, and we keep those separate so it’s never a choice between a baked good and an apple. We want people to be able to prioritize the fresh food, and then, if they also want a treat they can grab it.
We also offer resource tables for those attending to learn more about programs the HSCA offers as well as various groups in the city that will pop-up weekly, such as the Calgary Public Library. They will bring activities, books, and sit with the kids that are attending with their families. They will even let the kids take out books and return them monthly with the Calgary Public Library pop-up.
How long has the program been in EXISTENCE?
We started the first Monday of January 2016. We took inspiration from other programs, but designed our current [model] from scratch. During this design process we got feedback from our community and the topic of fresh food was continuously raised as there were more avenues to acquire dry goods and non perishables, but the fresh healthy food is what people were looking for and we wanted to fill that gap.
In the week before our interview, the HSCA saw a record number of 96 households, 70 of which were in the first half hour of the program being open for the afternoon. This itself proves the demand and high need for a program like this.
Currently, the HSCA is limited by their capacity of the amount of households they are able to support. Kate wants to encourage people to work to bring this program to their communities, and firmly believes that it could be replicated throughout community associations to broaden the support.
How can people support this program + initiative?
We are more than happy to share everything we have built, down to our giant spreadsheet. We wish everyone could acquire food in the way they want to, I think that truly is what dignity is [about]. I think ultimately, it’s a charitable food access program, and that’s kind of a barrier to dignity. It doesn’t cost a ton to run this program, but it does take an allocation of resources. Our Farmers Market helps us generate the revenue we need to be able to fund team members that can support this program, like Heather Ramshaw the Community Programs Coordinator for the HSCA.
This past year, through our partnership with the HSCA and their Farmers Market, you helped True Büch reinvest profits into providing over 540 Fresh Food Baskets to Calgarians in poverty. To learn more about this incredible program, or to obtain the resources (shout out to the HSCA’s giant spreadsheet), visit here.
Yours in büch,