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Simcoe branch of Canadian Mental Health Association getting boost for food program

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Michael Coteau (Mark Wanzel/Photo)

Michael Coteau (Mark Wanzel/Photo)

Eat up.

The Canadian Mental Health Association's Simcoe County branch is getting a $66,800 boost for its Urban Pantry Project through the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).

The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon at the Community Wholeness Centre in Barrie.

This project improves access to healthy foods for those in need, including training for food preparation, and involves Barrie Good Food Box and FruitShare Barrie.

“Our bodies need food, food is a basic need,” said Jim Harris, director of support services at the Canadian Mental Health Association's Simcoe County branch. “Healthy, natural food is the best fuel for our bodies.”

He also said there is a link between healthy eating and good mental health.

Andrea Boden is a parent volunteer at Hillcrest Public School in Barrie, and involved in its breakfast program. Students there make apple sauce and muffins, and they know where food comes from, thanks to FruitShare.

“The children know the difference between store (bought) and fresh,” she said.

Rhonda Kent is with Redwood Park Communities, which through United House offers supported, transitional housing to women and children leaving the Barrie Women and Children's Shelter.

“It's not just a box of fruit and veggies,” she said of Good Food Boxes. “It's a box of hope.”

Good Food Boxes are a monthly box of assorted fresh fruits and vegetables, mostly local or from Ontario, available to anyone in the community - $12 for a small box, $17 for a large one.

FruitShare harvests the extra fruit growing on Barrie's trees and shares it three ways - with property owners, volunteer pickers and Barrie Food Bank. The majority of its harvest is donated to the food bank and local schools, the latter making apple sauce and muffins right in the classrooms.

The association's Simcoe County branch will receive its $66,800 grant during an 11-month period to provide the Urban Pantry Project. It's expected to help about 500 economically vulnerable people.

“This Ontario Trillium Foundation grant will allow us to create new partnerships and expand the reach of these two great community programs: Barrie Good Food Box and Fruitshare Barrie,” Harris said.

The Trillium funding was announced by Michael Coteau, Ontario's minister of tourism, culture and sport – part of $48 million for 314 non-profit initiatives in the province. The ministry says these projects are expected to impact nearly two million people.

“It will improve access to high-quality food for economically vulnerable people in the community,” Coteau said of the Urban Pantry Project. “The non-profit sector builds up our communities.”

“For many, hope is elusive,” said Barrie MPP Ann Hoggarth. “What it (the Canadian Mental Health Association) has done has been instrumental in improving the lives of so many.”

Tuesday's Trillium grants also include support for projects that share arts education expertise by creating materials for teachers and art educators, providing francophone youth with opportunities to see contemporary dance productions and attend workshops, boosting participation in conservation and restorative efforts for Ontario's watershed, and encouraging individuals with disabilities to stay active by creating community gardens.

The OTF is an agency of the Ontario government and one of Canada's largest granting foundations.

For a complete list of the grants awarded Tuesday, visit



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