Each November, Food First NL hosts the annual Good Food Challenge - a month-long, province-wide discussion about food.
Many communities in NL face barriers to accessing adequate, healthy food -- including high costs, poor quality and inconsistent availability of healthy foods. These barriers contribute to low consumption of vegetables and fruits, and high rates of diet-related health issues.
Alongside these challenges, however, lies an incredible capacity to come together around solutions - we just need to start the conversation!
That's what Food First NL set out to do with the launch of our Everybody Eats Discussion Paper in November 2015, and in 2016 we extended that conversation through the Good Food Challenge.
Throughout the month, on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), we posted daily discussion cards, inviting our supporters to contribute to a growing discourse about the future of food in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We've gathered those cards below. Though the challenge is over, it's not too late to join the conversation!
To kick things off, we asked people to dream big and let go of any need for details. The who, how, or when didn't matter, we just wanted to know people's dream for food in NL. This open approach left us with a wide variety of responses; everything from the affordability of healthy foods, to the mandatory and improved labeling of local food in supermarkets.
A unique part of this year's Good Food Challenge is that we're sharing perspectives from around the province, gathered over the course of the last year, through our Everybody Eats work. Day 2 saw us highlighting a response from someone in Badger, that touches on the issues of accessibility and affordability.
Day three featured a quote from someone in Trepassey, NL, and a discussion about the presence of community gardens and greenhouses across the province.
One commenter shared the plans for the Century Park redevelopment, in Georgestown, St. John's, as an example of how communities are taking steps to move closer to a version of this magic-wand reality.
Day four's contributor (from St. John's, NL) envisions a world in which our province's natural food sources are more widely available, helping to shape a seasonal diet and lessening our global impact.
You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't love a bit of berry picking throughout the summer months in NL! This quote, from day 5 of the challenge, speaks to the need to protect the areas where this pastime (and the abundant source of wild food!) can be enjoyed.
In a few different ways throughout this first week, we heard the desire for more locally grown food, so day six looked at the ways each of us can work to make that a reality.
For example, the impromptu community garden set up by one St. John's area woman. This is a more involved example, but improving access to local food can be as simple as growing herbs on your windowsill!
After a hearty first week of discussion, we ended things off with a challenge. We spent the week looking ahead to a brighter food future, so for our challenge we encouraged people to celebrate the present by channeling their inner papparzi, and snapping some shots with local food.
Once again, we started off with a question. In the first week we asked people to dream big and tell us their grand, uninhibited vision for food security in NL; this week, we asked people to come back down to earth, and highlight what strengths we currently have that we can work with to make bigger dreams a reality.
One of the things we heard early on was an awareness of the need for change, and a dedicated group of people willing to make it happen. And then, as if on cue, Food First NL hosted our Everybody Eats Advisory Committee meeting.
One of the most common themes that we've heard over the last year, while hosting Everybody Eats conversations and meetings across the province, is the importance of our native food sources, and our tradition of resourcefulness in the face of challenge - both of these are highlighted in this quote from day two.
Day three featured a quote from someone in Corner Brook, NL, and an important consideration about our reliance on imported products. As we know, for example, 90% of the province's fresh vegetables are grown outside the province.
This point was echoed in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's "The Way Forward" vision document, released on November 9, which mentions the goal of doubling our food self-sufficiency by 2022 (from 10% to 20%).
Remember when we said that tradition and resourcefulness were common themes? We weren't kidding! Day four's quote touched on these as well.
We also saw them on Twitter, where one commenter echoed a similar thought: "Our way into the future of our cultural cuisine is to look to the past and the wealth of knowledge in our people."
In a few different ways throughout this second week, we heard the need to look back into our past, to help pave the way for the future.
One great way to do this, is through Food First NL's All Around the Table Film Series, which examines traditional ways of growing, preserving, and preparing our food through 12 interviews with seniors from Eastern Newfoundland.
After a busy second week, we once again ended things off with a challenge. With all of the focus on tradition and food skills/knowledge, we encouraged you to get in touch with a bit of your own food history.
A couple of the comments we heard touched on root cellars, cold frames, and more! What do you have to share?
After spending last week discussing Newfoundland and Labrador's greatest strengths for food security, this week we dove in the opposite direction: our greatest challenges. This is something we'll be considering carefully as we move forward with Everybody Eats, as it will, in part, define how we direct our efforts.
In the discussion, one Facebook commenter eschewed the notion that NL does not have the capacity for agriculture, but instead expressed concerns over losing such areas to other forms of development.
One of the most common themes that we've heard over the last year, while hosting Everybody Eats conversations and meetings across the province, is the challenge posed by our weather and geography - this discussion quote, from an individual in Change Islands, reflects this concern. But what do you think?
In week 1 of the Good Food Challenge, we heard an unconventional example of one St. John's woman getting involved in local growing, and in the food system. Part of this quote, from day 3, reflects that - "not everyone has to go full-scale." But it also recognizes the need for this interest and involvement in growing and agriculture to, well, grow!
Day 4 saw the issue of transportation brought to the forefront. We've heard before how 84% of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador don't have a grocery store, and transportation challenges can make it hard for the stores to do exist to get affordable, healthy food.
Day 5's quote touched on the impact of extreme weather on food availability and prices. If you've ever been in a grocery store during or just after a period of major weather, this is likely something you can relate to!
Up until this point in the week, we had been talking exclusively about some of the challenges we face as a province, when it comes to food security. It's important to consider these, but we thought we should end the week off on a brighter note.
That's why we shared the story of one Deer Lake family, that's looking to fill a void in the west coast food landscape.
This idea of innovation through careful attention at the community level is also what drives Food First NL's NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: Our Food in Nunatsiavut Project. You can hear all about that project from the community members themselves, on our Nunatsiavut Stories website.
After a busy third week, we ended things off with a challenge. With all of the focus on challenges this week, we encouraged you to dig deep and find an example of a food-related innovation that is seeking to overcome a food security problem.
There are lots of potentials out there - let us know what you find!
In the first week of our Good Food Challenge we asked people to dream big. Then, we asked them about some concrete strengths the province has. And then about the challenges we face. Finally, we ended on something concrete and immediate: the most important thing we can do, right now. As we move into the new year, our Everybody Eats Advisory Committee will be looking at this question more closely, and starting to map out a collective vision and roadmap for the future of food in NL.
This has to be one of our favourite quotes from throughout the entire campaign. We feel it speaks for itself, but if your're wanting evidence to back up the point it makes, our All Around the Table film series is a good place to start!
Day 3's quote brings up an interesting question, of just what exactly would be required for people to feel comfortable getting involved in local growing, either at home or in their community. But as one commenter on Facebook pointed out, some of this work is already happening!
Facebook groups like "Backyard Vegetable Farmers NL" and "Community Gardens of Newfoundland and Labrador" are just two examples of online communities that have formed in the province to help provide support, resources, and encouragement to fellow or interested gardeners.
We here at Food First NL are lucky, in that our work connects us with many of the different projects and initiatives happening around the province. Which is why, on day 4, when the topic of school systems was raised, we couldn't help but smile thinking of all the organizations we know and have been lucky enough to partner with on work in this area. There's always more to be done, but groups like the Kids Eat Smart Foundation NL, Eat Great and Participate, and Agriculture in the Classroom NL are great reminders of how much is happening already.
Day 5 touched on something we've been seeing more and more of around the province in recent years, but more support for community greenhouses and gardens is always welcomed! Earlier in the Good Food Challenge, one commenter shared some potential plans for a new community space the Georgestown neighbourhood of St. John's, with one mock-up including space for a greenhouse and garden! It's not yet clear whether it'll happen, but here's hoping!
As we've been saying throughout this entire month, it's important to look ahead at the work that needs to happen so that NL can become more food secure, but, it's equally important to look around, at the great work that's already happening. Case in point, the St. Bonaventure's Farm to School Salad Bar.
We've come a long way this month, and what better way to say goodbye than by making a pledge for the future of #goodfoodnl?
In what way will you help contribute to the future of food in this province? The Challenge may be over, but it's not too late to let us know!