Formed in 2005 following the closure of the only grocery store in Kingston’s North end, the Healthy Recipes/Healthy Lunch Box Working Group, a group of community members and representatives from various organizations and groups, began working towards increasing food security for individuals and families in Rideau Heights (defined as Railway St. to Hwy 401 and Division St. to the Cataraqui River).
In 2007, renamed as the Community Harvest Working Group, they conducted a survey that indicated that many people in the Rideau Heights neighbourhood wanted better access to healthy food. 64.3% of respondents from the area indicated that they would shop at a farmers’ market in their neighbourhood. They delineated 4 goals for Rideau Heights when they started the Community Harvest Market in 2009:
- To increase people’s consumption of vegetables and fruit by providing neighbourhood residents with easy geographical access to fresh, local, and healthy foods, and to educate them about markets and locally-produced food.
- To enhance economic access to fresh fruits and vegetables for residents living on a limited income. In exchange for filling out questionnaires evaluating their experience of the market, we provided vouchers of $5 to be redeemed at the market.
- To foster social relationships and build community.
- To support local farmers and artisans. Being open on Sundays, the Community Harvest Market provided an alternative day for producers to sell their wares.
The Community Harvest Market ran from May-October each year at the Wally Elmer Community Centre (from 2009-2015, when Wally Elmer was demolished & again in 2021 in front of Rideau Heights Community Centre) and for two years at St. Matthew’s United Church. In addition to vendors and community tables, there was also free food, live entertainment, and children’s activities with special events 3 times per year.
Other past activities from CHWG:
- Organic Gardening/Seasonal Cooking workshop series
- A community garden
- A demonstration garden
- CSA food boxes (2011; 2020, biweekly to 32 families total, 9-11 items per week from CHG)
- Cooking demonstrations
Notably, the CHWG was also integral in creating the Kingston Community Gardens Network (and situating it within Loving Spoonful); and a community gleaning working group in 2010!