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Healthy choices are in the bag

Number of Healthy Living Bag orders expected to double next month
From left: Alice Kennedy (Langley’s Senior of the Year), Hilary Wiebe and Bob Campbell pack cloth bags with fresh produce at the Langley Senior Resources Centre. The Senior Healthy Living Bags are available for $5 to anyone over 55 years old and will be distributed — or available for pick up — on the first Tuesday of every month.

Volunteers showed up in such force at the Senior Resources Centre on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 4, that the 80 black canvas bags destined for Langley seniors’ homes had been filled and arranged for delivery long before organizer Dave Stark could even get there to help.

Tuesday, Oct. 4, marked the beginning of a new program based in Langley City, that is aimed at ensuring seniors are getting a reasonable number of fresh fruits and veggies in their diets without it taking a huge bite out of their grocery bill.

The ability to connect with food wholesalers through the seniors centre allows them to offer  bags of produce valued at between $18 and $20 for just $5.

The Senior Healthy Living Bags will be delivered (or available for pick up) once a month, providing a variety of fresh produce to any Langley resident 55 or older who wants one, said Stark.

Stark is the former food security co-ordintor for Langley and currently serves as executive director of Meals on Wheels, the organization spearheading the project, alongside Fraser Health, the City of Langley’s recreation department and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Nursing students from Kwantlen and BCIT have also chipped in, provided healthy living tips which will slipped into the bags on index cards every month.

This month’s bags contained oranges and bananas, bell peppers, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes — and it is a take-it or leave-it situation.

“(Customers) have no choice of what goes in, but they can trade; it’s social and fun,” said Stark.

In fact, he’s already overheard groups of seniors wheeling and dealing the contents of their bags, not unlike they might have done with their packed lunches at school, decades ago.

The program is currently operating with funds from the City, but it’s open to residents of both Langleys. And Stark hopes that once it is up and running, it will expand into the Township and beyond.

“I was excited to hear Peter Fassbender say he hopes it will start in the City and become a model for the province,” Stark said.

The City mayor made the remarks during the Oct. 3 meeting when Stark and several of his colleagues delivered a bag to each member of council.

The Healthy Living Bags are not a government initiative, Fassbender noted, but the grassroots program has the potential to benefit everyone from customers to the health care system as a whole.

“This is about prevention, versus dealing with illness. By making (healthy food) affordable and bringing it to the door, it allows (seniors) to make healthier decisions,” Fassbender said.

Without widely publicizing the program, the group received orders for 75 bags in its first month.

“I expect that to double next month,” Stark said.

It’s too logical not to catch on, he reasoned. “It’s grassroots partnerships. It’s easy, low cost and has huge benefits.”

Anyone 55 or older who would like a Healthy Living Bag is asked to pre-order by calling the Timms Centre at 604-514-2940, the Douglas Recreation Centre, at 604-514-2865 or the Langley Seniors Centre, at 604-530-3020.

Delivery is available in the City. Otherwise, bags can be picked up between noon and 4 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at  Douglas Recreation Centre, 20550 Douglas Cres. or at the Seniors Centre, 20605 51B Ave.