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People and programs 06/20/2023

On a gorgeous spring day, people spread out across Pandora Park in East Vancouver to chat and eat with each other. They’re drawn to the affordable selection of produce at the community market hosted by Kiwassa Neighbourhood House.

Blain Butyniec, Kiwassa’s Food Programs Coordinator, loves the energy of the public space on those days. “On a sunny day, it’s so full of joy here,” he beams.

Not your typical farmers' market

While a big draw, farmers’ markets aren’t accessible to everyone. The recent 10% year over year increase on the cost of groceries makes shopping at local markets a luxury - especially for people living on low incomes.

Instead, Kiwassa has adopted the Market Greens model, as one of Community Food Centre Canada’s 28 participants across the country. 

The Market Greens program aims to bring fruit and vegetables to everyone. It increases access to fresh produces by providing organizations with grants to run low-cost markets and a “Greens Prescription” program. Through the prescription program, participants receive a voucher to use at the market for up to 20 weeks, making it easier to access fresh produce.

A market for everyone

Whether at the seasonal outdoor market in Pandora Park or at the weekly market at Kiwassa, staff and volunteers aim to create an inclusive space for everyone. Market-goers get excited when they see affordable produce they recognize and love to cook. There’s a big emphasis on ensuring the market is community-led so shoppers have a say in its offerings.

“We get requests for specific things such as spinach, bitter melon and gai lan (Chinese broccoli),” says Blain. “It’s a big benefit and way more meaningful for people to choose what they want and like.”

To cater to the languages spoken in the community, program brochures are available in Farsi, simplified Chinese and Spanish. And, during last year’s Pride Week, the market hosted a queer-themed event in the park with local entertainers, seniors’ groups, and the library. 

As Blain notes: “It's a unique opportunity. People might come to the market for their physical health but we’re also able to help with their mental and social health. It wasn’t an intended benefit but it is a great outcome.”

Blain appreciates the value in learning from and collaborating with other organizations across the country running a Market Greens program. “Our market is probably very different from the ones in Ontario and Newfoundland because the community is different. Their needs are different. It’s neat to see the different ways a Market Greens market can look.”

Market Greens is made possible with support from the Arrell Family Foundation, Manulife, Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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