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Baked goods bring smiles as new effort aims to ease food insecurity

Harvey's Free Bread Market runs every Sunday out of a portable at Waverley Public School

Every Sunday for the past few weeks, a cheery brown stuffed bear named Harvey has been eager to greet people at the Harvey’s Free Bread Market, which offers free breads and other tasty treats to those in need.

Thanks to Zehrs Hartsland and Cobbs Bread on Clair Road in Guelph, the market offers a variety of baked goods including breads, cakes, biscuits and other desserts.

“There was concern about leftover bread so both Zehrs and Cobbs Bread have been donating breads every week. We pick the bread up on Saturday nights and it’s ready to go to the market on Sundays,” explained Barb McPhee, market manager at the North End Harvest Market.

“Last week, we had over 22 cakes. A lady came in and she was so happy because it was her son’s birthday. She was so thankful.”

Harvey’s Free Bread Market runs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 140 Waverley Dr., in a donated portable at Waverley Public School.

“We see about 40 families on Sundays,” McPhee said. “And we have places for anything left over including a men’s shelter in Cambridge and The Bench, here in Guelph. Nothing is wasted.” 

Along with the Harvey’s Free Bread Market, the North End Harvest Market, serves fresh fruit and vegetables to those can’t afford them.

The North End Harvest Market has been running since 2014, every Wednesday at Waverley Public School from 4:30 to 6 p.m. for anyone in need of fresh produce.

The market is a free fresh produce market for those struggling with food insecurity.

“We rely on donations and on our Adopt-A-Week campaign which helps keep the market going,” McPhee said.

The Adopt-a-Week campaign invites local businesses, community groups, friends and neighbourhoods to share their resources to help feed people who access the market every week. 

This campaign is on-going during COVID-19 and McPhee said that during the pandemic, the need for fresh food has increased.

“We used to prepare about 40-50 bags a week before Covid-19. Now, we are making about 140,” she said.

“The market used to be for those living in the north end, but now, we have people from all over Guelph.”

During the pandemic, the North End Market has been offering delivery and curbside pickup.

“It’s best to contact us ahead of time. People come, they have a beeper and wait. When they beep, they can come in. We decided this was the best way to help keep everyone safe,” McPhee said. “But for the Harvey’s Free Bread Market on Sundays, people can just come right in.”

Volunteering at both markets, has become a family affair.

“We’re one big family here. My daughter and granddaughter also volunteer here too. My granddaughter, Madison, is 12 years old. She’s been volunteering here since she was six,” McPhee said.

And during the pandemic, McPhee has also started a new program to help with deliveries, to inspire others to volunteer and help those in need in their community.

“We have nine people doing deliveries. Because high school students need community service hours, we have four families doing deliveries too. Parents do the driving and the students deliver. Everyone is safe.”

McPhee is no stranger when it comes to helping the needy.

She has worked and volunteered with neighbourhood groups for 30 years and for over six years has been managing the North End Harvest Market.

But for McPhee, the markets are much more than just about food distribution.

“A place where thankful hearts meet and hungry souls are fed," according to McPhee.

Both markets offer advocacy, friendship, support, and connections to community resources. They are places for people to feel safe, to laugh and enjoy with one another in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.

“Especially now, people are really looking to make connections. I see this so much more during Covid-19,” she said.

“This really does make me feel good. The markets are about the people, seeing people, and talking with them. It’s become such a community here. It’s become a family.”

For more information about the Harvey’s Free Bread Market, visit the North End Harvest Market Facebook page or email Barb McPhee at oldbatchat@yahoo.ca.