by Steve Dawson.
“Wow!” is the first word out of my mouth, upon visiting the new Peter McKee Community Food Centre in Moncton this week. The freshly painted, bright and spacious building feels more like a modern coffee shop or neighbourhood market than what might normally come to mind when picturing a local “food bank”. In fact, they rarely even use that term here… and with good reason.
The newly renovated food centre (in a former a military base gym) at the corner of St. George Street and Vaughn Harvey Boulevard features a coffee/waiting area, a children’s play area, community garden, volunteer area, boardroom and much more. This was all part of the vision when three Greater Moncton food banks (Open Hands, Second Mile, West End) recently combined to create one large, centralized, efficient entity.
And as Food Centre Manager, Ben MacMichael, explains, additional offerings are still under construction including a teaching kitchen, and a thrift store (run by local non-profit Nazareth House).
His pride is evident as he gives me the tour, especially when describing the new food storage areas which include a large cold room and walk-in fridge/freezer, a far cry from what he had to make do with in years past. For Ben, it’s all about providing high quality service, “Food safety is a priority. We want to make sure that everything we hand out is in the best condition it can possibly be.”
The amount of effort required to provide such levels of service is also on display during my visit. The centre is a going concern, with numerous community volunteers constantly sorting donations and stocking shelves throughout the day. But the results are impressive in terms of both quality and quantity of grocery options. There are pre-packaged pantry items, breads, produce, and even tofu on hand.
And in addition to the standard items available at no charge, a new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program has just begun. The Farm Fresh Food For All program (a partnership with local farmers and the Greater Moncton United Way) allows for the purchase of local fresh vegetables at a greatly discounted price.
So, despite ongoing upgrades to the facility, the Peter McKee Community Food Centre is definitely open for business, and their volunteers are more than ready to welcome you.
Plus, with the new mural out front… you can’t miss it!
(And for other similar fresh food box programs in Nova Scotia click here.)
Steve Dawson is the Community Connector with Our Food Southeast NB. He likes food and ideas… and really likes ideas about food.