Our Charitable Choices feature this week is about Calgary Produce Marketing Association, who aim to educate Canadians about healthy eating while supporting local produce farmers. We spoke to a representative to learn more.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
We are the Calgary Produce Marketing Association, a member-funded, volunteer-based, not for profit within the produce industry working together to educate, network and promote healthy eating through the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Together with our members, we are proud supporters of local charities including the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Community Kitchen Program. Throughout the year we host and sponsor various charitable events with Produce as the focus here in Calgary including the Half Your Plate Dinner and The Fall Harvest Sale at Heritage Park.
What problem does it aim to solve?
We recognize that a portion of our community suffers from food insecurity and the inability to access fresh fruits and vegetables. Through donations by our members our group has directed our programming to organizations that support vulnerable populations by providing a wide range of fresh produce for daily meals, food hampers, in school fruit and lunch programs as well as after school snacks and meals on a weekly basis.
When did you start/join it?
We have been an association since 1991 but have operated as a group in one way or another for almost 40 years. I was on the board for a year prior to being elected president in November of 2019.
What made you want to get involved?
The produce industry helps to feed the world with a wholesome and healthy product! It’s an exciting industry that is never boring with no two days that are ever the same! I made the move to work in produce 5 years ago, after many years of working as a Chef and being on the other side of the industry came with new learning and eye-opening opportunities and I was hooked. While volunteering at the Fall Harvest, I heard some of the many stories of how the groups has helped over the years and the contributions they have made to their charity partners. Partial proceeds from the Fall Harvest sale have helped to raise over $1 million for the Alberta Children’s Hospital, which they use for specialized equipment and research helping so many Calgarians and Albertans. This group brings together like minded individuals working within the produce industry in Calgary who all want to help and give back by utilizing our collective resources to support to goals of the organization.
What was the situation like when you started?
Food insecurity was a concern, with 1 in 10 Albertan households suffering from marginal food insecurity daily it makes you wonder if the people you know might be at risk. Those who suffer from food insecurity are more likely to experience nutrient inadequacies and have poorer diets, leading to negative impacts on the health and overall well-being of the population across all age groups. Members of the Calgary PMA help to reduce food insecurity and help divert potential waste by donating fresh produce to local charities and food banks for distribution within their networks.
How has it changed since?
With the Alberta economy slowing and household incomes tightening, fruits and vegetables can become a luxury item for many within the community and helping the at-risk gain access to fresh produce is still a major function of the group. The weekly donations and volunteer time provided by members of the Calgary Produce Marketing Association help to offset costs for our charity partners so they can fund other programs and services. Our working board members continue to work with our organizations to divert produce to local groups for use and redistribution into the community.
Our overall contributions and donations have increased to our various school programs including more high school sports programs this year providing fruit and vegetable snacks and meals for countless youth and families daily. We continue to partner with the Alberta Children’s Hospital, most recently volunteering to answer pledge calls at the Country 105 Radiothon. Our group also brought a donation of 50 pairs of produce themed socks from Friday Sock Co to teens staying at the hospital along with grab and go fruit for the hard working, front line care staff.
What more needs to be done?
Donate to charities in need when you can. If not money, donate your time to volunteer, anything helps. Attend events that benefit a worthy community cause. Help reduce food waste by purchasing only what you need to reduce food waste from spoilage. Donate fresh food items that will store well such as root vegetables, potatoes, apples. Follow the Canada Food Guide recommendation of eating half your plate full of fresh fruits and vegetables or maybe even and try meatless Monday.
How can our readers help?
Calgary Produce Marketing Association host events throughout the year that allow us to fund and support many programs, events, and organizations. We host a Half Your Plate Chefs Dinner in the Spring, which is a fabulous event with dishes prepared by several great local chefs. Our biggest fundraiser of the year is the Fall Harvest Sale at Heritage Park in September and allows the public to come and shop for produce in an outdoor market setting at wholesale prices.
Do you have any events coming up?
We will be having the Half Your Plate Chefs Dinner, the date is yet to be determined as it had to be rescheduled due to Covid-19. Details will be available on our website and social channels.
Where can we follow you?
Facebook, Instagram, twitter @calgarypma
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
There are many great charities in our city, but we have so much love for our partners, Community Kitchen Program of Calgary & The Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. We have recently also started working with Mealshare and the Leftovers Foundation.