The Bayline Food Buying Co-op was first thought of in 2012. Most communities along the Bayline (rail line) do not have year-round road access or local grocery stores. They have to travel by train, boat, or winter road to do their grocery shopping and this is very expensive. A food buying co-op will provide a regular shipment of pre-ordered foods to community members in partnership with Via Rail. It will reduce the time and money involved in grocery shopping and accessing good foods.
Since the project started there has been lots of work done, including a pre-feasibility study and many meetings. The project is spearheaded by Carol Sanoffsky as part of her role as Administrator for the Bayline Regional Round Table, but many other community leaders and members are helping with the work.
We started out in 2016 with community surveys to find out which types of food people would want to get, to learn about people’s interest and understanding of the food buying program and to get suggestions on how to run the program. The community champions in Thicket Portage and Pikwitonei, Marie Brightnose and Pauline Cordell, led the survey work and we learned a lot to help guide the program planning.
We have made partnerships with many organizations that are helping us to get the program off the ground. Just a few are the community councils of Thicket Portage, Pikwitonei and Iford, War Lake First Nation Chief and Council, VIA Rail, Frontier School Division and Dwyer’s Store in Wabowden.
We talked to people from the Fort Albany Food Security Committee who help run a fresh food market in Fort Albany on the James Bay coast. They have worked through challenges and are making the market work. For a while they had to ship food by truck, to a train and to a plane to get the food from Toronto to Fort Albany, but now they source their food from Thunder Bay which cuts down the transit time considerably. They had a lot of good insights to share with us about the logistics of running a food buying group and potential challenges we might face.
We also visited a group of Manitoba farmers who sell and package their meat or produce to sell directly to consumers. On the trip we got some good ideas about how to organize the orders and package the food for each ‘customer’. With all the work going into getting the co-op up and running we brought on Donna Sanoffsky as the Wabowden-based coordinator to help support community champions and to coordinate the start of the program. Donna has done loads of work organizing even more meetings, visiting the communities to share information, getting all the paperwork sorted out for starting the program and purchasing equipment we will need when we start.
We took huge steps forward in 2016 and are almost ready to start our first shipment. Our final step before we kick-off the program is holding a training session for all the community champions in Thompson, so they can get more familiar with the ordering and order checking processes.
To find out more about the Bayline Food Buying Co-op please read here.
To find out more about other community partners please read here.