It may sound ambitious, but Enactus Ottawa’s Sprout program is tackling the problem of food deserts in some of our city’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods. Part of a global organization with members in 36 countries around the world, the Enactus chapter at the University of Ottawa was founded in 2010. It’s a student-led organization that believes taking entrepreneurial action for others creates a better world for everyone. Locally, the chapter is 100 members strong and has been busy creating and operating social enterprises in communities across the city.
Sprout was founded in the summer of 2015 at UOttawa and ten students keep the program running each year, trying to help neighbourhoods, often low income, that have limited access to fresh, healthy food. Over the past year and a half, they’ve succeeding in launching their products in two stores: Lauzon Grocery at 207 Guigues Avenue in Lowertown and Safi Fine Foods at 322 Somerset Street East in Sandy Hill. This year, the team has their eyes set on addressing food insecurity in additional neighbourhoods in Ottawa.
What Sprout offers in these two stores are packaged meal kits that supply the base ingredients, including spices, along with a recipe and a short list of fresh items to be purchased to complete the meal. A refrigerated case stands at the ready, stocked with popular produce, sold at or below grocery store prices and in small quantities, making it affordable to prepare the healthy meal kit.
“These meal kits for students or families are all able to be prepared on a stovetop, are ready in under 30 minutes and cost between $3 and $4 each,” explains Holly Todd, president of Enactus Ottawa. “Our current kits include Veggie hummus wraps, Rustic Pasta, Vegetable Pad Thai and Fiesta Rice.”
Thus far, the work of creating recipes, packaging meal kits, delivering to stores as well as marketing and outreach has all been handled by students and the project is self-sustaining in terms of funding. “We bought our own packaging equipment to create the kits, but now that the volume is growing we are looking at employing someone from Y’s Owl Maclure Co-operative Centre, an agency that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities, to help with packaging,” says Holly.
“The response has been really positive,” she adds. “When we are at community events to help spread the word, we get great reviews from people who try our products. We have found that it’s folks from the community at large who are primarily buying the kits, so this fall we are targeting our campaign at students. Our mission is to make good food affordable for all.”
To learn more about Sprout, visit sproutott.ca.