To many this might be common knowledge but to me it was a bit of an Aha! moment; I always thought that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was outside the reach of the average budget. Local organic produce can be cheaper or at worst match the price of the well-traveled fruit and veggies sold by the grocery store chains that run our food system.
I came upon this as we approached the challenge of bulk buying fresh food for families that participate in our food banks in Southeast New Brunswick.
Then an opportunity came up to work with the Ministry of Agriculture Aquaculture and Fisheries in supporting local producers by subsidising non-profit initiatives that use local food sources. The United Way in Moncton took advantage of this program to raise funds while supporting local producers.
This got the cogs turning in the minds of our local food security buffs and we asked ourselves: Can we get the most nutritious food available (organically grown fresh produce harvested in the last 24hrs) to the people that need our food banks (mostly accessing non-perishable food items high in salt, sugar and preservatives)?
We looked at existing Fresh food box programs. These excellent non-profit programs buy bulk orders of fresh fruit and veggies directly from wholesalers. This gives people a box of fresh produce for $15 that would otherwise cost about $40 at the grocery store.
We also looked at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes and broke the average cost of a share down by the box – This worked out to less than $20 per box.
The amazing difference here is that the wholesalers that supply most of our grocery stores provide fresh food grown with the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that has often travelled thousands of miles and was harvested several weeks ago or more (This decreases the food’s nutritional value). The organic CSA producer grows fresh produce without artificial implements and harvests the food about 24hrs before the food box is delivered usually travelling less the 100kms to deliver it.
You can also do the math and come up with the conclusion that one the best ways to get good food, whether you are limited in your finances or not, is through CSAs!
We hope to purchase the CSA shares up front and sell them by the box at a discounted price to food bank participants to ensure the best food gets to the people who need it the most. This idea was inspired by the Cost Share CSA initiative in Cumberland County – Let’s spread it around, we have CSAs all over the Maritimes!