Good Food Challenge 2016

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 (FacebookTwitter, 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!


Day 1

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. 

Day 2

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 3

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 4

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. 

Day 5

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.

Day 6

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! 

Day 7

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.


Day 1

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

Day 2

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 3

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%).

Day 4

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."

Day 5

Day five's quote touched on the innovation of NL farmers - something we see mention of time and time again. Innovation definitely has a role to play in moving our food system forward!

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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?


Day 1

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.

Day 2

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?

Day 3

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

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

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!

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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!


Day 1

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.

Day 2

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

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.

Day 4

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

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!

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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!

Good Food Challenge 2016 - Colonial Corner Garden

The quote above comes from a response to our Everybody Eats Discussion Questions. The garden being referenced was created by St. John's area resident Jocelyne Thomas, with some help from her neighbours, and some friends involved in community gardening. Together, they built and maintained two small raised beds, that anyone in the neighbourhood could use and enjoy. 

We sat down with Jocelyne, to talk about this project. 

Q: Why did you start this garden?

A: A number of reasons. For starters, I've been staring at that square of unused land for years, watching it get all the sunshine (when there is any) and being mowed twice or three times a summer, and thinking "someone should grow something there." The waste of land/sunshine was annoying me. My own garden is small and shaded, and while things grow there, it's really not conducive to much that is edible. I love growing food — even if it's only small amounts, and I want my child to learn both where food comes from and how to grow it. I figured I would put in some boxes, and it would either work and we'd have some lovely things growing, or the boxes/plants would get trashed and that would be the end of the experiment. I'm a pragmatic idealist, if that's possible.

Q: What have people been saying about it?

A: A number of people living in neighbourhood have expressed interest in either participating (planting some things in these and/or the next boxes we put in — I have two more planned) or in providing support e.g. buying dirt or plants, contributing some money towards cost of lumber. Passersby have been admiring the boxes and the effort, and I've been encouraging people to take some lettuce, snip some herbs, and (eventually) grab some tomatoes. The reaction has been extremely positive, from all age ranges. I've had tourists take pictures of the boxes.

Q: How did you go about putting it all together?

A: After seeking advice about who to talk to with the City of St. John's, I sent some emails, got some information, got permission to use the land and some specifics the City required (e.g., because it's at the corner of two streets, boxes and plants cannot be taller than 80cm in order to not obstruct driver sight lines). Then I got the lumber and built the boxes with the help of our neighbour, and another neighbour provided the dirt, and we rounded up some plants, and there you go. The longest part of the process was getting permission from the city.

Q: What would you say to someone who might want to start something like this in their area?

A: Plant some things. Flowers, berries, food plants, or just something you like to look at. Find a piece of land — big or small it doesn't matter - that is unused, neglected, and dig it up. Get milk crates and line them with plant cloth, use old jars, whatever. You don't need to build big boxes. Anything that holds dirt and water, and gets a decent amount of sun in a day will do. You may want to check if the piece of land belongs to someone or to the city, and get permission — but a little guerrilla gardening never hurt anyone! It doesn't have to cost much or anything — just a little work and time. Talk to your neighbours. Get them involved. If one person does a thing, other people will follow.

This project is just one example of the many types of small, but incredibly meaningful, actions people can take to contribute to the growing food movement, and toward a province where all people, at all times, have access to healthy, fresh, affordable, culturally appropriate food.

Good Food Challenge 2015

We face many food-related challenges here in the province, and in turn, many of our communities face high costs, low quality, and low availability of fresh foods. Alongside these challenges, however, lies an incredible capacity to come together around solutions.

Our incredibly rich food traditions of eating from the land and sea, including gardening, fishing, hunting and berry picking, are just one example. These traditional food ways—still practiced across the province today—represent one of the greatest strengths upon which we can build to improve the state of food security in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In recent years there has been an  incredible growth in interest and action on food security, and with more community organizations, businesses, governments, researchers, and citizens working on this issue, the time is right to take this interest to the next level. If our province is to be food secure, we must better understand how we can individually and collectively contribute to shaping and sustaining a healthy and sustainable food system. The first step is starting the conversation!

So without further ado, our 2015 Good Food Challenge questions!

Week 1:

We started off the week with something easy, and asked people to tell us about their favourite food. There was a strong love of soup in our community, but responses were across the board—everything from eggs, to partridges, and pizza! You can view—and join—the conversation by clicking below!

RESOURCE: Check out Cookspiration for great recipes to find some new favourite foods!

Question number two was all about salad! We believe that great salads come from great ingredients and simple, fresh salad dressings, so we wanted to hear what combinations people loved. Food First NL's own Elling Lien helped demonstrate just how diverse you can get with salad, by sharing his family's discovery of warm salad. Read more by clicking below!

RESOURCE:  Learn the basics of making salad dressing, with Mark Bittman

Eating homegrown food can sometimes feel daunting—90% of our fresh vegetables come from outside the province, and 80% of our seafood production is exported — and these are just a couple of challenges. That said, however, there's still an amazing variety of wild food available in our communities —from berries, to fish, and moose — a growing community of producers — from farmers, to fishermen, and hunters — and venues — from community gardens, to farmer's markets — from which to access local food. 

RESOURCES:  See what's in season, with Food First NL's Local Food Seasonality Chart

 Find a farm near you, with the NL Farm Guide

Studies show that by sitting down and enjoying a regular meal with family or friends, we tend to eat better. However, we know with that with busy schedules, making the time to cook and eat together is often easier said than done. We wanted to hear what strategies our community has for making this easier, and got a range of responses!

RESOURCE: Heart and Stroke Foundations's tips for eating together

Week 2:

We started the week off with one of our favourite topics: growing food! Sarah Crocker, Food First NL's Public Education and Outreach Coordinator, talked about the market garden that she operates, and many people from our community chimed in with their own growing experiences. Click below to join the conversation!

RESOURCE: Food First NL's 8 Food Skills Workshops

Question number two was all about cooking! In a perfect world, we'd have all the time and ingredients we needed to make meals from scratch every day—but we know that's not always the case! It can be challenging to balance your time, but when it works out, it always feels worth it. 

RESOURCES:  Food First NL's Workshop on Preparing Local Vegetables

Dietitians of Canada Recipe Cookspiration Website

Do you plan your meals? Shop with a list? Make time for cooking? Keep a well stocked pantry? These are just some of the things that might make it easier to eat better at home. But it's certainly not an exhaustive list. Luckily, our community chimed in with some other suggestions.

RESOURCES: Government of Canada's Meal Planning Tips

Eastern Health's Guide to a Well-Stocked Pantry

Author Michael Pollan has a rule: “Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself”—the idea being that by making it yourself, you will use whole ingredients, it will be less processed and more healthy. Food First NL's Elling Lien took that to heart and tried to make Doritos from scratch—find out more at the link below!

RESOURCES: Michael Pollan's Food Rules

Homemade, Vegan Doritos Recipe

Everyone has their own tips and tricks when it comes to cooking in the kitchen, so we thought we'd see who was willing to share their secrets! Click the link below to learn—or teach others—something new!

RESOURCES: How to quickly peel a hard boiled egg

The secret to peeling an avocado

Pressure Canning Moose Meat

Quickly peel a head of garlic

Week 3:

Food is powerful—the taste, smell and texture of food can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back memories not just of eating food itself but also of place and setting. We thought this question might generate a lot of discussion, and we were right—people love talking about food! Click below to join the conversation!

Composting is a great way to not only reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of, but also to convert it into a product that is useful for gardening, landscaping, or house plants. It's also a lot easier to get into than many people may think! Click below to read about our community's experiences with composting, and to add your own.

RESOURCES: Food First NL's Compost Guide

Island Compost - A St John's composting business

Newfoundland and Labrador faces many challenges when it comes to accessing healthy, affordable food. As a geographically dispersed, isolated province that relies on outside food sources, many of our communities face high costs, low quality, and low availability of fresh foods. Have you ever felt this in your community?

RESOURCES: Why do we need to put food first in Newfoundland and Labrador?

From community gardens and kitchens, to cooking classes and composting workshops, there are a ton of great food initiatives happening across the province! We're lucky enough to see and interact with a lot of them on a daily basis, but we want to know - what are some of your favourites?

RESOURCES: Food First NL's Best Practice Guides

Community Healthy Living Fund - Support for Food Programs

NL Wellness Coalitions - Small Grants to Support Wellness Programs

Whether you are the next Jamie Oliver, or a cooking newbie—everyone has ways they can improve in the kitchen. Do you find poaching eggs tricky? How's your handle on making a salad dressing? Ever kneaded dough? There are many skills to acquire, and even more resources available to help make it happen—all you have to do it try!   

RESOURCES: Food First NL's Workshop on Preparing Vegetables

A Step-by-Step Guide to Blanching Vegetables

NL is very dependent on outside food sources -- 90% of the fresh vegetables and fruits available through major grocery stores in NL are grown outside of the province. That’s a lot of food travelling long distances to make it to our communities. 

RESOURCES: NL Local Food Seasonality Chart

NL Farm Guide