Gold River is no longer a food desert, thanks to a new co-operative grocery store that opened in the village last month.
However, a grocery store is only the first stage in the co-op’s plan to build community resilience and create a kind of food hub for the area, including a community kitchen, a computerized aeroponic food growing system, and even a program to help educate local students about how to grow their own food.
The idea is to “involve other people in other ways than just selling groceries,” said Sheri Johnston, one of the co-op’s board members. She said that they want to make Gold River into a “self-sustaining community … in the long run, because we are semi isolated.”
The co-op, which opened on Oct. 21, is the first grocery store in the community since November, 2016. Until it opened, people had to commute 90 km to Campbell River for groceries.
“The community is pretty happy about it. Especially the people that don’t drive too much,” said Johnston. “People don’t have vehicles. So they’re looking for rides from people. So, yeah, it makes a big difference, especially with the price of gas going up so high recently.”
The board of the co-op decided to be completely independent, as opposed to being part of the larger Federated Co-op group found elsewhere on the Island. Due to the small size of the store, the Federated Co-op’s requirement for stock levels was too much for the store to handle. This way members are able to request certain kinds of food to meet their dietary needs, as well as hold things like case lot sales.
“We want it to be a kind of center of the town, you know having an outdoor market in the summer and maybe music and stuff to draw people in, that kind of thing,” she said. “Just make it more of a meeting place in a way.”
In the meantime, people in Gold River just seem to be glad to have a grocery store again.
Johnston said that one of the top selling items is ice cream. “The one thing that everybody was really excited that we have in was ice cream,” she said, adding that it had a tendency to melt during the hour and ten minute drive between Campbell River and Gold River. “It’s just more convenient for people looking for the larger containers.”
The new store is located centrally in the village at 385 Nimpkish Drive. It is open to non-members as well as members, and membership cards are available in the store.