More Ottawa corner stores stocking fruits and vegetables in pilot project

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You won’t find overbearing heat and sand in Ottawa’s food deserts, but fresh, healthy food options are definitely scarce, especially if you’re traveling on foot.

By Adam Kveton

Ottawa Public Health recognizes 23 “food deserts” in the city, totalling nearly a quarter of the city’s communities. These are “low-income neighbourhoods that don’t have a grocery store within a one-kilometre distance,” said OPS dietitian Krystal Taylor.

Often, the food options come down to corner stores with less healthy options like chips, ice-cream and candy bars.

Having local access to various healthy food options at competitive prices is key to increasing community health, she said, and OPS is trying to jumpstart that effort with a new pilot project that supports local corner stores to provide fair-priced fruit, vegetables and meat substitutes.

The project aims to have corner stores provide a minimum of three fresh vegetables, three fresh fruits, a variety of whole-grain products and two meat alternatives like eggs, beans or canned tuna.

The stores must also keep the food priced at costs similar to local grocery stores, said Taylor.

In return, the stores get marketing materials, advertising and resources showing how to “purchase, price and stock fresh produce,” said Taylor.

The project is “currently finalizing details with a major chain to sell fresh vegetables and fruit in two to three additional stores,” said Taylor.

“I think it’s great,” said Alex Williams, daytime manager at Lauzon Meats and Groceries. “It’s good for the community.”

Though the store does usually sell vegetables and fruit, Williams said the price has certainly gone down. “We were selling an orange for like 99 cents. Now it’s 35 cents.”

Other communities where the project is looking to establish partnerships include Carlington, West Carleton, Mechanicsville and Carson Grove

New spots

Over the past two weeks, the first three participants in the project have gotten started:

- Food Frenz at 2910 Carling Ave.

- Preston Food Market at 71 Preston St.

- Lauzon Meats and Groceries at 207 Guigues Ave.

This article originally appeared in Metro News.