If you haven’t heard by now, it’s official: Real Food Connections closed last Wednesday, November 30, after being in business for over six years. Founder Levi Lawrence and his family announced the devastating news on their Facebook page and website.
Real Food Connections (RFC) was more than just a specialty/local food store. They had built a strong community of customers, supporters and producers all working toward making local food more accessible. By doing so, they also became a resource for local food education.
I started working at the RFC Saint John location last April after attending the Slow Food Canada Summit (which will be hosted in New Brunswick next year). Slow Food is an international movement that promotes food that is good, clean and fair for all. I’m both on our national and local board and I was searching for opportunities to gain more on the ground food experience that would align with this mission. RFC was exactly what I was looking for. It also had the added bonus of being a socially conscious business rather than the traditional non-profit model.
The atmosphere in RFC was quite exceptional thanks to customers, staff and its location. Regular customers would eagerly pick-up their weekly boxes to see what kind of fresh produce they would get for the week, embracing the seasonality. With new customers, we would proudly explain our mission towards sustainable and local food access. It was also a great hangout place thanks to the Eatery/Deli where customers would enjoy daily creations or simply enjoy some coffee or tea. Every single staff member was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about local food. We would have endless conversations about food, suppliers, recipes, and more.
I really do believe RFC was making an active difference in increasing local food access while navigating in a broken food system. Yes, this particular business model did not work at this time and place due to various factors (for more information on the ”why”, please visit their wesbite for their official statement.) But I still believe the future is bright, especially with the growing consciousness around healthy and local food that’s slowly making it’s way around the world. As Levi Lawrence said: ‘‘It is my heartfelt desire that we can find some way to preserve some of the learnings, experience, systems, team and equipment in such a way that they can continue in a positive, productive effort along these lines but it will not be possible under the current stewardship of Real Food Connections.’’
And finally he adds this important call to action: ‘‘Please support your local food producers, they need it now more than ever. Real Food Connections spent millions of dollars at local farms over the past year, and I fear the coming year where that will not be so.’’
RFC will be missed dearly. I invite you to go read the growing number of reactions and comments on their Facebook page.
As a food activist, a customer and an employee, I say thank you to everyone at Real Food Connections for all you have contributed in this province’s food movement.