Seniors in North Delta may soon have greater access to locally-grown farm-fresh produce.
The City of Delta is investigating the possibility of hosting small-scale weekday farmers’ markets at the Kennedy Seniors’ Recreation Centre, as well at the McKee Seniors’ Recreation Centre in Ladner.
In a report presented to Delta council on Monday night, city staff cited Statistics Canada data that says more than 1.1 million Canadian households have problems accessing food and are food insecure, adding the issue is worse for seniors who are living on their own and who have low incomes.
According to the report, decreased mobility, financial strains, lack of education and changes in living environments can all make accessing food difficult, as can a lack of social networks (or a reliance on family or friends), a lack of appropriate transportation created by mobility challenges and a lack of community-based programs.
Acting on recommendations from Delta’s seniors advisory sub-committee and the parks, recreation and culture commission, staff concluded that a program of holding small-scale farmers’ markets at the city’s seniors’ centres would connect older, more vulnerable members of the community to a source of fresh produce that will help to address their nutritional needs.
“As part of the conversation there was concern for seniors’ nutrition as acting city manager Kuntz just explained, but also taking advantage of the local foods available and recognizing that seniors may have mobility challenges — they can’t drive anymore, transit is not going get them where they need to go,” Coun. Sylvia Bishop, who chairs the seniors advisory sub-committee, said at Monday’s council meeting.
“We would welcome a single farmer, perhaps offering only one kind of produce if that was all [that was] available for one week, or multiple farmers with multiple produce choices. The whole idea is nutritional and low-cost foods coming to the doors of the seniors.”
The report says Delta’s seniors’ centres are ideally suited to host the markets as they have large memberships and are easy for people to get to via the city’s free seniors busses. Additionally, the centres offer the ability to have a mid-week market that doesn’t conflict with established weekend markets and provides vendors the opportunity to sell their produce when it is ready for sale, rather than on select weekends as is the case in other market settings.
“My simple vision for this would be to invite the local farming community to come to the parking lot, set up shop for an afternoon or a morning and sell the produce to not only the seniors that attend the seniors’ centres, but anybody walking by,” director of parks, recreation and culture Ken Kuntz told council, adding details such as whether the markets would be inside or outdoors have yet to be worked out.
“The idea would be that we make this available during the week when the majority of seniors are at the centres and, in many cases, when the produce is ready. Sometimes the local farmers have to wait until the weekend to sell their wares. In the meantime the food is ready and can be sold to the local seniors.”
Tsawwassen’s Earthwise Society already operates a similar program that brings its “pocket markets” to seniors’ residences in the community, offering freshly-harvested organic produce from the Earthwise Farm and free produce collected through the society’s Shared Harvest program, which collects excess fruit and vegetables from local homeowners’ gardens and distributes them to families in need through the Delta Food Coalition.
In the report, Delta staff identified Earthwise’s Pocket Markets program as one potential market provider, noting local farmers and other market organizations may also wish to get involved.
The report also stated that, in addition to the farmers’ market, concurrent programs could be developed for promotion at the seniors centres, such as presentations for seniors by local nutritionists on topics such as controlling diabetes with diet, “brain foods” and how to maintain a healthy diet during the winter months; cooking classes and demonstrations featuring local chefs and Delta-grown produce; and presentations by local nurseries to talk about the ease of growing produce on patio and balcony gardens.
In partnership with Delta’s seniors support coordinator, these programs would also help to connect marginalized or vulnerable seniors to the numerous resources in the community that help to provide food security by referring participants to other programs they might not be aware of.