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There are no supermarkets in North Central Regina, which is why Stephen McDavid and Helmi Scott are happy to spend $2 for soup and bannock at the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship. Photo by Jeremy Simes

We’re told an apple a day keeps the doctor away, yet getting fresh produce at a reasonable price in Regina’s North Central neighbourhood isn't a quick fix.


Helmi Scott, resident of North Central, said there aren’t any supermarkets in the area. In fact, North Central is among 76 per cent of Regina's neighbourhoods that don’t have a supermarket within 750 metres walking distance, stated Sask Trends Monitor’s June 2012 report.



The Regina Community Food Systems Steering Committee released an environmental scan of Regina’s food systems and gaps. The January 2014 report found that food security is a key aspect to social determinants of health. It stated food store proximity is important because citizens may be forced to spend scarce dollars on transit, taxis and convenience stores.


Scott is one of those citizens who takes public transit to various grocers near the neighbourhood. But public transit isn’t always accessible, especially for Scott. “It’s fine if you have good legs,” she said, pointing to her walker.


If Scott were to walk to a nearby convenience store, a head of lettuce would cost about $1.60 compared to one that is on sale for $1 at Superstore.


Tracy Sanden, public health nutritionist, who is a part of food security and food initiatives with the Health Region, said supermarkets generally don’t profit from such sales. “They have specials to draw people in,” she said. Sanden also said smaller store owners don’t purchase in high enough quantities for lower prices because there isn’t much demand.


Supermarkets also require a large amount of land. North Central is largely developed compared to the outskirts of the city. “It’s cheaper to build from scratch than renovate. Land in downtown areas can be high,” Sanden said.


“There’s a lot of creative options,” she added, referring to midsize grocers that offer some of the same products. For example, Ngoy Hoa Asian Foods opened recently near the neighbourhood.


Another option has been presented by REACH, a non-profit association that delivers affordable and nutritious food to communities. The association’s Good Food Box program sends boxes full of fresh produce to depots. Families can pre-purchase these boxes for about one-third of the price they would have spent at supermarkets. “It’s cheaper for us when more people buy,” said Keith Ronyk, a representative of REACH.


REACH also created mobile stores for residents to purchase fresh food directly. The North Central Community Association store is open once a week for two hours. However, the store's hours are still a challenge for Scott. “If you’re not there early enough, everything is gone,” she said.


Ronyk said fluctuating food prices and having a steady volunteer base can be an issue. For example, stores in senior care facilities have residents who are readily available to volunteer. The community store in North Central has "no live-in residents. It’s a little more difficult,” Ronyk said.


Income levels also create difficulties. According to the City’s 2006 census, the average family income in North Central is just under $35,000. “Fresh food goes out quick of someone’s home. Kids can eat a bag of apples in a day,” she said. This then may lead to someone to purchase the “quick” option, especially if it's readily available, Sanden said. 


However, Sanden said these food options also reflect the environment we live in. “People don’t have time to cook and sit as a family. It’s the society we are in, not so much an individual problem. It’s access in the neighbourhood, income and a poverty problem.”