Many of Food First NL’s projects overlap on a common goal: to make the healthy choice an easy choice for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians.
Public institutions feed large numbers of people daily. By working with these institutions, to encourage them to offer healthy, local and sustainable food, we can make great strides in improving our province’s food environment. Our children should have access to nutritious food during school hours, for instance, and our loved ones should have access to healthy food while in hospital.
Food First NL has been working with like-minded partners to ensure the public has better access to good food in places where they spend a lot of their time, like schools, campuses, hospitals, and government buildings.
In May, we attended two separate national conferences devoted respectively to the farm to school, and farm to healthcare movements. Networking, and learning more about the successes and challenges others have faced in these endeavours, help empower us to lead change here at home, in institutional food work.
Farm to School
Sarah Ferber, our Program Manager, is fresh back from BC, where she connected with school food champions from across Canada. “Farm to Cafeteria Canada brought over 300 change-makers to the first National Farm to School Conference in Victoria, BC,” Sarah says, “setting the stage for an exciting event”.
The Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Foods, Marie-Claude Bibeau, gave an encouraging video presentation, and Whole Kids Foundation committed a further $500,000 to support the nationwide farm to school work being spearheaded by our partner, Farm to Cafeteria Canada.
This three-day event was full of hands-on field trips, world-class keynote speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities. All of which strengthened partnerships, celebrated action, and focused on evaluating and scaling the success stories we’ve seen across the country – and certainly here at home – for the farm to school movement.
Sarah says she had inspiring and timely conversations with attendees from almost every province in Canada, who are all working to make healthy, local, and sustainable food more accessible to students from pre-school to post-secondary. Food First NL has a growing commitment to fostering healthier school food environments, including getting local food on more students’ plates.
"This conference was a milestone for the farm to school movement; to keep our momentum going strong! Food First NL is in great company with all the other groups doing this work across Canada."
On a personal note, Sarah especially appreciated the gifts of music, dance, prayer, food, and space offered by the Lekwungen Nation (Songhees) at the harvest dinner. She also learned how to identify and harvest edible seaweed, which she plans to practice with her family this spring in Newfoundland.
Farm to Healthcare
Meanwhile, Suzanne Hawkins, who is taking the lead on our farm to healthcare work, was recently in Toronto to attend Nourish's Food for Health Symposium.
The symposium featured workshops, panels, and networking opportunities with roughly 50 food industry and healthcare workers, farmers, advocates, and activists. Attendees shared their perspectives on the importance of serving healthy, locally sourced, and more sustainable menus in our healthcare institutions for the benefit of patient health and the environment.
“At a workshop where patients shared their food experiences and stories, it was emphasized that food and healthcare are rights -- the right to food and the right to healthcare,” Suzanne says. “And taking that even further, the right to feel nourished, connected, and comforted, especially when we are at our most vulnerable. It's important not to forget these rights in farm to healthcare work.”
In addition to the importance of providing nourishing meals for those who need them most, healthcare facilities have profound purchasing power. If hospitals in Newfoundland & Labrador chose to purchase and serve more locally produced foods, they would be serious economic drivers for local agriculture, fisheries, and other food industries, which would help build a more robust food system, and strengthen food security in NL.
We’re happy to report our farm to healthcare pilot projects are gearing up for flight.