20 Voices from 20 Years | Melba Rabinowitz: Former Treasurer
“Food is core to our being,” says former board member Melba Rabinowitz. “Breaking bread together has always been a symbol of caring, and it has been with our own families and children.”
Melba’s status as one of the province’s food security champions dates back to 1975, when she arrived in the province with a Master’s degree in Home Economics with a nutrition major.
“I hit the ground running,” says Melba. “Always ready for the opportunities to embed nutrition and healthier foods into our programs and activities.”
During her tenure as Director of Daybreak Parent Child Centre, the organization added a kitchen for parents to help with cooking, and teach one another how to make bread. “We grew sprouts and micro-greens in the classrooms,” says Melba.
“We fenced off a spot in the children's play area to grow basics: carrots, cabbage, potatoes and broccoli.” Parents dug soil with children and watched things grow.
“Food First NL was already founded when I joined,” says Melba. “Daybreak was an active member; Margie Coombs, a nutritionist, talked about the organization, asking me to help. I always told her than when I retired from Daybreak, I would join the board.”
“When I joined Food First NL, there was $70.00 in the bank account and they were struggling to pay for a post office box.” A far cry from 2018; this year alone, the organization moved into a new office to accommodate growth in staff numbers.
Melba made good on her promise. “When I joined Food First NL, there was $70.00 in the bank account and they were struggling to pay for a post office box.” A far cry from 2018; this year alone, the organization moved into a new office to accommodate growth in staff numbers.
Upon accepting the role as Treasurer, Melba applied for federal funding through the Public Health Agency of Canada—a grant that would help secure the organization’s future.
In those early days, public health workers provided leadership in food security, at the policy and advocacy levels, with a hands-on, community development approach to push efforts forward.
In the present, Melba sees efforts continuing for locally grown, affordable, nutritious vegetables and meat available for everyone, school lunch programs for all, and at the policy level, support and subsidies for farmers. “So they, too, have a decent living,” says Melba.
In terms of positive change that she has seen in local food security, Melba points to the province’scurrent mission to increase its food self-sufficiency to at least 20 per cent. However, she notes that “it could be at least 50%, if we all understood the challenges and worked together to increase farming and use of the agriculture land base we have,” including fish and fish products, as well as wild game.