A $25,000 grant will help in efforts to make Oxford County produce more accessible to hundreds of people in the area.
The grant provided by the Oxford Community Foundation – Harvey and Erma Beaty endowment fund, was used to buy much needed equipment to grow the Oxford Garden Fresh Box program.
The program with roots dating back to June 2011 was started by Ingersoll’s health and environment sub-committee with the town’s strategic plan revitalization group. Over the years the idea has sparked partnerships between farmers, local businesses and service agencies including Woodstock and Area Community Health Centre and WDDS. All involved are focused on bringing more locally grown food to Oxford County tables in an affordable way.
Deb Roloson, community involvement coordinator for WDDS said the organization decided to get involved in late August 2012. The program is used as a teaching tool for the organization’s day program clients. The clients volunteer their time to prepare the baskets each month.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to get the people we work with involved in the community in a meaningful way,” she said Tuesday after touring media and other agency personel through parts of the WDDS facility. “This is not a fundraiser. This is a learning experience. They learn about healthy foods which is important to the transitions program.”
So far monies from the grant has been used to buy an industrial fridge/freezer, reusable boxes and shelving. The rest of the grant will help cover incidental costs including some transportation costs accrued while travelling from farm to farm picking up produce.
Linda Dimock, from the Woodstock and Area Community Health Centre said the industrial fridge/freezer was an important piece of equipment for the growth of the program.
“Basically before, we picked up (the produce) from the farm the same day we sorted and packaged it and sent it out to the customers. It was stressful because we didn’t always know exactly what we were going to get from each farmer or how much,” she said.
Now produce pick up times from farmers can be a little more staggered. Berries can also be frozen and then put in boxes at different times throughout the year.
The Harvey and Erma Beaty endowment fund was left to the London Community Foundation and the Oxford Community Foundation. There are several volunteer boards that look over applications to the fund.
Harvey Beaty was the founder of Cold Springs Farms in Thamesford. Now that the company is operated by Maple Leaf Foods Inc., a volunteer donor advisory committee comprising of Cold Spring Farms staff makes the final decision as to who will receive the grant.
“It’s one of the things I enjoy most about my job,” Jean Carson of Maple Leaf Foods/Cold Springs Farms said. “A project like this is win-win.”
By buying in bulk the Oxford Garden Fresh Box program is able to obtain a better price on fruits and vegetables grown in Oxford County. The program in turn passes on the savings to its customers. The boxes are sold in two different sizes and vouchers must be bought by the 15th of each month. The cost of a small box is $12 and a large box is $17. Boxes can be picked up on the last Tuesday of every month at WDDS on Bysham Park Drive between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. or Ingersoll Pharmasave in Ingersoll on King Street.
Vouchers can be bought in Ingersoll at Fusion Youth Centre, Pharmasave, Victoria Park Community Centre, Ingersoll Services for Seniors. In Woodstock, Woodstock and Area Community Health Centre (Cash only), and WDDS.