Reflecting Back & Looking Forward on Our 20th Anniversary

A message from Food First NL’s Executive Director, Kristie Jameson

Kristie welcoming the crowd at 2018’s AGM.

Kristie welcoming the crowd at 2018’s AGM.

Turning 20 is a remarkable milestone for Food First NL, and as with any milestone, it presents us with an opportunity to take stock – to look back to our origins, reflect on what we’ve accomplished, and plan for where we want to go.

The Origins of Food First NL

Looking back at the history of Food First NL, it is impressive to see how we were established, and how much was accomplished in those early days. The origins of Food First NL date back to 1997, when a local action group of Dietitians of Canada proposed creating a network to address the growing issues of hunger and poverty in the province. This group hosted a public meeting, and formed a steering committee to guide the development of the organization.

In these early days, the focus was on addressing hunger, and ensuring people have the means to afford food. When the organization was being founded, there were discussions on whether it should adopt a mandate of anti-hunger, or focus more broadly on food security in general. Ultimately, the group decided to adopt a food security framework to guide its work.

On April 2nd, 1998, the founding meeting of the Food Security Network of Newfoundland & Labrador was held.

The organization was immediately impressive. Within one year they were incorporated, and had their first staff person, Joanne Cag. It was also in this first year, that the organization adopted its mission, which still guides the work of the organization today:  

To actively promote comprehensive, community-based solutions to ensure access to adequate, and healthy food for all.

The foundation of Food First NL is rooted in people coming together around a common issue, with a drive to make positive change. Over the past 20 years, Food First NL has expanded and grown to support numerous programs and projects, working with hundreds of partners, stakeholders, and advisors, and working to advance food security at the local, regional, and provincial levels.

Attendance list for the founding meeting of the Food Security Network of NL in 1998; We re-branded to Food First NL in 2015.

Attendance list for the founding meeting of the Food Security Network of NL in 1998; We re-branded to Food First NL in 2015.

Founding member Susan Greene is one of many people who remain engaged with the organization.

Founding member Susan Greene is one of many people who remain engaged with the organization.

Pivotal People from Our Past Showcased in Our
20 Voices from 20 Years Series

The continued growth and success of the organization has been a result of all of the people who have played a role in our work – from volunteers, to partner organizations, to board members, staff, and advisors. We would not be where we are today without the involvement and help of all these people.

This was why it was so important to us that in celebrating our 20 years, we showcase 20 of the countless people who have helped us grow, and whom we have and continue to learn from. Every one of the people highlighted in our 20 Voices from 20 Years Series has played (and continues to play) a critical role in our success. They are but a small showcase of the people who have been instrumental in building the organization Food First NL has become.

Looking Forward To Our Next 20 Years

As we begin to think about the next 20 years of Food First NL, there are many exciting ideas and opportunities on the horizon – some that build on the foundational vision and work of Food First NL, and some that push us into new frontiers in food security.

A new Cost of Food Report is underway

A new Cost of Food Report is underway

We’ve already started to work on some initiatives that bring us back to our origins. We are collaborating with our partners through Everybody Eats to create a report on the Cost of Eating in Newfoundland & Labrador, which will be the first report of its kind since 2003. Interestingly, that first report in 2003 was created by the NL Public Health Association, Dietitians of NL, and the NL Association of Social Workers – all key partners of ours – at the recommendation of Food First NL.  

At our recent AGM, we engaged over 65 people in helping us plan for our next 20 years. We heard a lot of support for our current work – from working with institutions to get more healthy, local food into schools and hospitals, to collaborating with communities to develop and implement locally designed programs to address local food security challenges.  

We also heard a lot of ideas for new action. Desires to see us focusing more effort on addressing fish as food, interest in seeing the organization influencing more policy, based on learnings from our community partners and work, and diversifying our network, to work more with young people, indigenous people, and new Canadians. All of these ideas, and several others, will help inform our next strategic framework that guides the work of the organization.

There are really exciting opportunities on the horizon for Food First NL. We look forward to continuing to work with our growing network of stakeholders and partners to advance food security in Newfoundland and Labrador.  

We’ve come so far, yet this is only just the beginning.

We asked the crowd at 2018’s AGM to let us know what projects of ours are working, what initiatives we should consider taking on, and what might be lower priority for us in the coming years, with an engaging “Feed, Seed, and Weed” exercise.