Saint John — It was announced this week that the province’s best source for fresh local foods, Real Food Connections, is shutting its doors after failing to secure funding from investors or to drum up enough business from New Brunswick residents.
“Well, ain’t that a pity,” clucked Marion McNeil as she drove past the company’s Saint John location, which closed Wednesday. “I can’t say I ever went in there, but I heard they were doing some good things in the community. I shop at Costco myself — it’s cheaper — but surely someone else could have given them some business?”
Saint John-area real estate agent Dawn Collins said she regularly touts the benefits of Real Food Connections to prospective homebuyers, and is sad to see it go. “I tell clients they’re just a few blocks from a local treasure,” she said. “I don’t personally have time to shop at a place like that — I like that Costco has those huge grocery carts that you can just throw everything you need for the next month into — but it makes the area seem quaint and friendly if you talk about something locally inspired.”
Real Food Connections had carved out a niche in New Brunswick, selling and distributing locally produced food and other products in Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton. Their food box program was in a class of its own, giving consumers a chance to have the best produce, meat and cheese delivered right to their door. Jobs were created, agriculture and transportation benefited, and New Brunswick had something to be proud of.
“Look, the provincial government has always championed startups of this nature,” said Premier Brian Gallant in an interview at the Fredericton Costco this morning. “We did literally everything we could to save the business: we said nice things about them in interviews, we bragged about them in tourism campaigns, we didn’t try to shut them down.
“Unfortunately we can’t support them financially at this time, because we would have to divert funds from our local call centres,” Gallant explained while placing a massive $5.99 wheel of brie into his cart next to a 15lb bag of potatoes grown in Idaho, “which employ more people than Real Food Connections ever could.”
Other New Brunswickers were equally displeased about the business closing.
“I don’t know what happened; just this morning I posted on Facebook about the importance of buying local,” said Bernie McNeil, who was stocking up on lettuce and tomatoes at Walmart. “I guess not enough people shared the right statuses at the right time to save Real Food.”
Our reporter happened to notice Donald Arseneault wandering the aisles at Walmart looking lost.
“I don’t know what Real Food Connections is,” said the minister of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour, “but I do know that the owner of that place should have gone into the tech sector — that’s what really puts food on the table in this province.”