MASU launches produce bags

A new way for students to get fresh food at a discounted price

In June 2019, MASU, the Sackville Commons and schools from around the Tantramar area came together at a meeting and decided that the produce bags were beneficial for students to be able to get fresh discounted food.

Last week MASU launched a new initiative to get students, faculty and locals fresh produce in a cheaper way: a monthly delivery of fresh produce at an affordable price.

The first order was a trial run to gauge interest in the program. Every month, students who want to receive a bag of produce can sign up in the MASU office, pay, and pick up their bag the following week. MASU also offers the option of having a service deliver the produce bags to you. The produce is bought from a wholesaler, but MASU is hoping to buy from more local options in the future.

Typically there is a $10 one-time membership fee, plus $15 for each bag. However, Mt. A Student Life and the Campbell-Verduyn Fund have made the membership fee free for the first 50 students who sign up.

“This wasn’t a MASU initiative initially. It came together in June of last year,” said Elise Vaillancourt, the current MASU VP of external affairs. She explained that MASU received an email from Nadine Robinson, a Mt. A intern who was working for Food For All New Brunswick, a non-profit program that aims to address food inequality and food literacy in the Tantramar region.

Subsequently, MASU, the Sackville Commons and schools from around the Tantramar area had a meeting at the Sackville Commons and decided that it was beneficial for students to be able to get fresh discounted food.

“We decided we were going to base our model off what Fredericton does because they seem to have a really good system, so [Tantramar] became a member of Community Food Smart,” said Vaillancourt. Community Food Smart is a food security initiative in providing quality affordable food to community members.

“It ends up being somewhere around $40 to $45 worth of produce for $15, so it’s a really good deal,” Vaillancourt said. She explained that money from the membership fee goes toward “buying the bags, buying the scales to weigh the food” and other operational costs.

Other students are also eager to try the program. “I really like the month-by-month sign-up which makes it really easy to try it out once and go from there,” said Emily Clark, a third-year Mt. A student. “The idea of a hassle-free and affordable way to get fresh produce is extremely appealing, especially for students who are trying to eat healthy while focusing on their studies.”

“I think it’s a great idea and seeing how quickly they’re selling I’d love to continue the project next year,” said Sydney Thorburn, who will be taking over Vaillancourt’s position as VP of external affairs for the 2020-21 school year. “Food security in Sackville is definitely a concern for students because of how little disposable money students have in general, when most don’t work. The big-name monthly companies [like Hello Fresh] are so expensive. A lot of students will avoid healthier options because they cost more than things like pasta, which doesn’t have much nutritional value. This way we’re supporting local and keeping it affordable and I think that’s amazing.”

The bags will include fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges, as well as onions, potatoes and carrots. Other items vary from month to month, such as grapefruit, pineapple, tomatoes and celery.

Vaillancourt is also grateful to have MASU help out in this project. “In my view the MASU has been a really strong partner in this. To have the MASU as a distribution site is really important for students.”

“There seems to be a great deal of interest,” said Vaillancourt. “I think it’s an innovative way to look at students getting fresh produce and healthy food, which is a big issue at Mount Allison specifically because our grocery stores sometimes don’t have the most selection or the freshest stuff.”

Vaillancourt also spoke about her hopes for the program’s future. “I would love to see it grow to a produce bag with recipe cards, or maybe we have an Instagram where every week we show you how to use bok choy or something.”

MASU will be posting when they are going to be collecting orders next in March. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Emma Conrad
Emma Conrad is a writer for the Argosy.