Low income families get more bang for their buck by buying bulk
Isabelle Harris, 6, helps her mom Nicole shop for oranges. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram
Isabelle Harris claps her hands when told her family's going grocery shopping.
"Can we get cheese and oranges and milk?" the six-year-old asks, pulling on her coat in record time.
Living on income support has sometimes meant saying no to such healthy choices, Isabelle's father Joshua Harris says.
However, since the family became members of the Level Best Bulk Food Buying Club, having to tell Isabelle those foods aren't an option is happening far less often, he says.
Joshua and his wife Nicole also have a three-month-old baby, Maggie Rose.
Because of the extra expenses of having a newborn, stretching a dollar is even more challenging, Nicole says.
"If you're paying $40 for formula that's $40 less that you have to put towards other things," she says.
Joshua is from the Stephenville area of the province.
Nicole is from Rocky Harbour.
They now live near the MacMorran Community Centre in the east end of St. John's.
The family is looking forward to participating, for the third year in a row, in the Level Best Bulk Food Buying Club.
The club is an initiative of the Brighter Futures Coalition of St. John's and the Burin Peninsula Brighter Futures.
The non-profit organizations offer programs and services to over 20 communities in both rural and urban parts of the province, the majority of which promote healthy birth, growth and development of children.
Operating out of MacMorran, the bulk-food initiative promotes the thinking that parents will do their "level best" to provide for their families.
Buying in bulk gives families better access to a variety of nutritional foods.
Families who join the club pay an initial $5 membership fee, then $15 each month, an amount matched by Brighter Futures.
"So we get $30 worth of groceries every month for the $15 that we put in ourselves," Joshua says.
After the families meet to decide what foods they'd like to buy that month, they go, as a group, to the grocery store.
"When we get together for our monthly meetings, we talk about what's on sale at each supermarket. And it's not unusual for us to go to different supermarkets during the one shopping trip if it's going to get us more food for our money," Joshua says.
After all the food has been purchased, it is divided evenly among the families.
"Isabelle loves cheese but it's not cheap, so if other families in our group want cheese as well, we can buy the large block and half it or quarter it, depending on how many families have that on their list," Joshua explains.
As team leader with the Brighter Futures Coalition of St. John's, Deborah Capps co-ordinates the project in the St. John's area.
She credits the Harris family for their efforts in promoting healthy eating, not only for their own families but also in their community.
The family is an important part of the community centre as well, Capps says.
Capps meets with Harris and other families in the club every month. Together they arrange the shopping trip, then she provides transportation for the families that don't have vehicles.
Capps says the project not only helps families eat healthy but also educates them on the healthy choices, using the Canada Food Guide as reference.
"When we get together to do some planning and one of the topics that gets lots of discussion is that if something is labelled with fruit, does that mean they are all nutritious food items. We talk about why fruit juice is better than fruit punch, and that type of thing," Capps says.
The project works, Capps says, because of the families' involvement. They interact with one another and learn from each other, Capps says.
"We're not doing something for families, we're doing something with families. They tell us what they want, it's not us telling them," she says.
In 2007, the clubs were up and running in family resource centres in St. John's, Lamaline, Grand Falls-Windsor, Stephenville and the Northern Peninsula.
Thanks to recent funding from the province's wellness coalition, the project is now being expanded to include five new sites making the club a provincial initiative, Capps says.
The project, which involves six families at a time, is now getting ready to start at the MacMorran Community Centre.
Capps encourages parents with children six and under who live in the MacMorran Community Centre area to contact Brighter Futures if they're interested in joining the club. She can be reached at 739-8096 or by e-mail at email@example.com.