Pilot project to help low-income residents choose, buy and prepare healthier food

A Red Deer pilot project will help people struggling financially to shop for their own food instead of only obtaining it from other agencies such as the food bank.

A Red Deer pilot project will help people struggling financially to shop for their own food instead of only obtaining it from other agencies such as the food bank.

Besides giving pre-loaded cards to buy food, Food for Friends will also offer programs about choosing and preparing healthy food, said Krystal Kromm, who began to pull the project together several months ago.

Nine years ago Kromm was a single mom in college with two young children, and had to turn to the Red Deer Food Bank and other organizations to survive.

Life is better now — she does not need the help of the food bank although she recently did take a friend there who needed help.

“I know first hand what it’s like to have to walk into a food bank and ask for food or choose to purchase foods that are cheaper. Food insecurity ranges from not having enough money to buy food or choosing lower quality food because of your income.”

Now 32, and no longer in that difficult situation, Kromm became aware of the only Food for Friends program in Canada, in Woodstock, Ont. That program resulted in the local food bank eventually closing and became the main method to help people in emergency food situations.

Kromm said when she learned about that program, the concept stayed with her and so she has revised it to work for Red Deer.

The Red Deer pilot project won’t eliminate the need for most people faced with food insecurity to use the local food bank, she said. It will augment other food services in Red Deer as a whole.

The pilot involves approved applicants receiving a card similar to a debit card with a certain amount of credit, and then using it to buy non-taxable food at participating grocery stores.

For example, a single-parent family with two children would receive $65 per month, for three months, with the idea to allow them to purchase such food as fresh vegetables, fruit and meat. One store so far, Sobey’s South, will be involved in the pilot project.

Food for Friends will take referrals from other agencies and then individuals will apply. Families with dependents will be given priority. They will also teach people, if they desire, how to choose nutrient-dense food and how best to utilize it.

“At 22 when I was a single parent I didn’t have the same skills I have now in the kitchen. … Those programs and workshops will help those who want more skills,” Kromm said.

One of the benefits of the project is it will allow those with special dietary requirements to select foods that best suit them. As well, it eliminates the need to ship food around and store it.

An eight-member board has recently formed for the new non-profit organization and meetings have been held with other agencies including the food bank. Fundraising will begin soon and the goal is to start offering cards by September.

Food for Friends will be promoting itself at the Alberta Food and Beverage Expo on Saturday at the Westerner. They intend to also be at the Red Deer Market regularly after it opens on the May long weekend.

More details will be worked out in coming months, Kromm said.

A website is being developed and will launch in a few weeks. They have a Facebook page called Food For Friends Community.

Kromm can be reached by email at krystal.foodforfriends@gmail.com


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