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Tobique: Community program improves access to fresh and affordable food

At Horizon's Tobique Valley Community Health Centre (TVCHC), there is a food purchasing program that is providing clients with more than just food security.

The Community Food Purchasing Group is a program run out of the health centre. Health centre clients, or any community member can pay $10 at the beginning of the month and receive a basket of fresh fruit and vegetables at the end of the month.

Danny Braun, community developer for the Plaster Rock and Perth-Andover areas, said items for the baskets are purchased at the Plaster Rock Independent grocery store.

"We utilize the buying power of the group to purchase at wholesale prices from the local supermarket," Danny said. "Each month we include a variety of fruit and vegetables - a typical order can include broccoli, carrots, bagged salad, cucumber, potatoes, bananas, apples and oranges."

Denise McClure, social worker at TVCHC, referred one of her clients to the food program who saw huge benefits.

"After meeting with this particular client and learning of her financial circumstances, I asked Danny for food on my client's behalf. Danny was happy to help," Denise said.

Denise said the client and her partner lost employment due to chronic injuries.

"She came to me for help navigating the medical system and seeking resources for themselves and their young children," she said.

Denise said this client told her how the food program changed her life.

"Physically and mentally, this food is helpful because the money I would have spent on these grocery items I can now put toward catching up with my NB Power bill," the client told Denise. "I'm so glad I found Tobique Valley Community Health Centre: it's changed my life."

Denise said this client has not only benefitted from the food program, but for the services provided by herself, and other members of the health care team from TVCHC including Nurse Practitioner Cindy McCarthy, and Physiotherapist Todd Adams.

"She said she's been struggling to navigate the system and get the help that we are now providing," Denise said. "She feels her persistence and optimism are finally being rewarded."

Denise said in her experience as a social worker, these kinds of circumstances are all too common. It seems those who are accustomed to working hard and helping others have the most difficulty asking for help when they are in need.

"Programs such as Community Food Purchasing Group provide a simple solution to an acute problem; otherwise, the problem becomes chronic and more complex programs are needed," Denise said. "I firmly believe that, with a little help and support, my client and her partner will be back on their feet shortly."

The Community Food Purchasing Group is one way staff at Horizon community health centres show their commitment to the health of their clients and communities.

Denise McClure graduated from St. Thomas University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Social Work. She completed internships with Vitalité's Grand Falls General Hospital and York Manor in Fredericton.

Before attending university, she enjoyed several years of working with students at a local school on a casual basis. As a social worker, she met clients in their homes in various parts of northern New Brunswick as a Needs Assessor and a Rehabilitation Counsellor. She joined the Horizon team at the Tobique Valley Community Health Centre in Plaster Rock in 2014.

Denise says helping people meet their needs and become empowered has always been, and continues to be, gratifying and close to her heart.

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