Healthy Living in the North

Growing local food in Fort Nelson

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Greenhouse

The sun shines on a greenhouse built for youth and family programs in Fort Nelson. The greenhouse was funded by an IMAGINE grant.

Sometimes when groups are looking at the healthy eating and food security needs in their community, the idea of applying for “seed funding” from the IMAGINE Community Grants program is taken very literally. Other times, especially in a region where the growing season is “short in days but long in daylight hours,” those seeds need just a little more help.

That’s what the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality was proposing with their Youth Sustainability Greenhouse Project, which got an IMAGINE grant in the spring of 2016. As the Regional Municipality looked for ways to involve more youth and families in local food production in Fort Nelson (they had already put in a few raised garden beds in 2015), building a greenhouse was an excellent way to address a need, promote healthy outcomes, and create a project that would last.

Youth working in a greenhouse

Young people in the Summer Fun Program planted, cared for, and harvested vegetables from seed.

The greenhouse they built, which was used by young people in the local Summer Fun Program, served two primary purposes, according to project coordinator Krista Vandersteen:

  1. Local food: “Youth in the program planted, cared for and harvested vegetables from both the garden and the greenhouse. Participants planted various vegetables from seed, including carrots, spinach, lettuce, peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, garlic, and green onion … The greenhouse allowed the participants to actively grow vegetables that they could not in the adjacent garden.”
  2. Education: “Once per week, the Northern Rockies Sustainability Coordinator visited the program to teach participants different lessons regarding food growth and [food] security. The children also learned about healthy eating and why vegetables are important in their diet. 135 youth participated throughout the summer, learning about multiple topics such as composting 101, using a rain barrel, and the importance of bees … Parents enjoyed that the program contained a practical educational component that their children may not be receiving in school.”

Now that the greenhouse has been funded and built with the support of an IMAGINE grant, the new gardening and education parts of the Summer Fun Program will be continuing annually.

The bumper crop that resulted from the greenhouse and the talented young gardeners also created the chance for a unique partnership. “When the project ended,” said Vandersteen, “the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality was left with extra produce that had not been eaten or used in programming. An effort was made to reach out to the local food bank as perishable food is often difficult to acquire.” Now, the project organizers are working with the local food bank to set up a partnership for next year. “As extra produce is harvested throughout the growing season,” said Vandersteen, “it will be donated to the food bank. The partnership will help to ensure no produce is wasted, and is going to people in need.”

It’s clear that in Fort Nelson, the IMAGINE Community Grant seed funding has grown into something pretty impressive!


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Foodie Friday: Prince George carrots, B.C. apples, and the urge to bake this fall

Plate of muffins

Morning glory muffins can use local Prince George carrots and B.C. apples! What will you bake this fall?

Welcome to fall!

While the summer is full of excitement and adventure, I absolutely love this time of year here. It’s the Prince George I fell in love with! Almost exactly two years ago, I moved from Halifax. I was only supposed to be here for six months but, like many, I have fallen in love with the beauty of this area and all it has to offer. I love walking through the forests full of yellow leaves and the earthy smell of the moist ground. What’s your favourite part about this season?

Fall is the time of new beginnings for me and many others. After all of the summer adventures have subsided, fall is when the kids go back to school and everyone is back at work. For me, fall is the time to start new projects and endeavours as I usually tend to spend a bit more time indoors, until the snow flies!

The cooler temperatures provide a very welcome urge to bake, too! Luckily, there are plenty of local carrots and zucchini around from the summer harvest to incorporate into muffins, breads, and loaves to give a boost of vitamins and fibre to our homemade goodies.

Do you have some funky old apples sitting in your fridge? What about old bananas in your freezer? Throw these both into your baking for extra fiber, moisture, and sweetness.

Here is one of my favourite muffin recipes using local Prince George carrots and B.C. apples:

Morning glory muffins

Makes 12 large muffins (or 24 medium-sized muffins – adjust baking time as necessary)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • ½ cup raisins (or chopped dates)
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 apple, skin on, shredded
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup very ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the carrot, raisins (or dates), nuts, coconut, and apple.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, banana, oil, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture into the carrot/flour mixture, just until moistened. The batter will be thick!
  4. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes (12-15 minutes if making 24 medium muffins) or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  6. Enjoy and share with someone you love, in a beautiful space.
Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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“Local solutions to local problems”: The Open Gate Garden Project in McBride

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Garden entrance gate

For project organizers, the Open Gate Garden in McBride demonstrates “local solutions to local problems.”

The Robson Valley Community Learning Project in McBride received an IMAGINE grant for their Open Gate Garden Project.

We recently checked in with the project and asked how their story might inspire others. Here’s what they shared:

One of the interesting aspects of our story is that the Open Gate Garden has become established during a major economic downturn. Our project seems to be demonstrating local solutions to local problems.

The principles of inclusion, diversity and consensus structure the work of the Community Literacy Task Group. For this reason, most of the gardeners take ownership for the project and there is a high level of unity and commitment. The Open Gate Garden is an example of what is possible when we work together, using our gifts and combining our skills. Growing food is what most of the old timers in the community know how to do. For the newcomers, like the retired urban teachers, it’s what they want to learn. There is a transmission of knowledge in an easy and relaxed manner.

Potatoes dug up and laying above ground.

Potatoes grown and sold as part of the community garden project help to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

The metaphor of ‘community as a garden’ and/or ‘garden as a community’ could be used to tell this story. Our garden design is an asset to the McBride community because of its beauty. The beds are as unique as the gardeners who tend them.

Others would be inspired by the possibility that a healthy community can come from the wide range of folks that reside there. We believe that building the capacity, the optimum human resources of the tiny population in our valley, is what it will take to restore a stable economy. So often, we hear about ‘attracting outside investments’ to solve our economic problems. Yet, we all eat. There is a market for locally grown, whole foods. Most are aware of threats to food security, climate change, and environmental devastation. Surely developing independent food systems could be a start to establishing a local economy! Our story shows that community gardening is a start. From this start, engaged citizens are emerging, other related projects are blossoming, folks are becoming connected, and we are beginning to generate revenues from growing potatoes to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

Woman bagging potatoes

“We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy.”

We also asked Nancy Taylor, Community Literacy Outreach Coordinator (pictured during harvest time in the garden), about the impact of the Open Gate Garden and the IMAGINE Community Grant they received:

Our IMAGINE grant funding has helped to pay for the infrastructure of the Open Gate Garden where lots of good stuff happens. Folks from all walks of life are included in the project. We share information, skills, and knowledge. We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel, and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate, and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy. We are grateful for the support we have received from Northern Health. Our community is healthier because of the Open Gate Garden.

What project might serve as a start in your community? You can start planning now because the next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants is coming soon!


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Mother Nature’s wonderful benefits

Woman with hunting rifle standing on ridge overlooking fall scenery.

For Laurel, there’s nothing better than disconnecting from the everyday world and heading out to hunt, fish, camp, or explore northern B.C.’s beautiful wilderness. There are so many health benefits!

Growing up in a family that camped, hunted and fished, the outdoor lifestyle has very much become a part of who I am. For me, I cannot think of anything more therapeutic than disconnecting from the everyday world and taking in the wonderful benefits that Mother Nature has to offer.

On any given weekend when I’m free, you will most likely find me in the bush hunting or on a river or lake fishing. There is nothing better than eating organic foods and it is even more satisfying when you harvest that food yourself! Spending the day in the bush not only has the potential to provide food for the freezer but has many health benefits that go along with it. It is not unusual to spend hours hiking or walking when you’re hunting (and that’s just the easy part! The real work doesn’t begin until you have shot your animal!). Not only am I doing something that I love, but I am getting exercise while doing it – it’s a win-win!

Woman holding fish in river.

Food doesn’t get much fresher or more local & organic than fish or game you’ve caught or hunted yourself!

There are so many benefits to spending your free time outdoors (in my case, hunting and fishing) and being active:

  • Fresh air. This is #1 for me!
  • Organic food. It doesn’t get much more organic than something you’ve hunted yourself!
  • Vitamin D. Soak up that sunshine!
  • Quality time with loved ones. To my little family, hunting is who we are, and as hunters, we often associate time in the bush with people we care about.
  • Better mental health. Goodbye, stress!
Lakes and fall colours

The photography opportunities in northern B.C. are endless, as Laurel’s beautiful shot of Butler Ridge Provincial Park near Hudson’s Hope demonstrates!

As a bonus, the photography opportunities are endless! Northern B.C. is home to some of the most beautiful outdoor scenery and wildlife in the province. With moose, deer, elk, bear and numerous other animals living at your doorstep, it’s not uncommon to see these spectacular animals while going about your everyday life. We “northerners” often take these amazing sights for granted.

I always try to be grateful for everything in life, but when I’m on the river, in the bush or at the top of a mountain, breathing in that fresh, outdoor air and having monster bull elk come towards me, it’s an extra reminder of how blessed I am to be a hunter!

Are you a hunter or an outdoor enthusiast? What outdoor activities do you take part in to help maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle?

Laurel Traue

About Laurel Traue

Laurel Traue is the Regional Administrative Support for Public Health. She was born and raised in the Cariboo and loves being able to call this beautiful part of B.C. home. Laurel's passion is her family, and she loves to connect with them while spending time in the great outdoors. In her spare time, Laurel enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, spending time on the river, exploring new parts of the beautiful North and travelling!

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Staff profile: Shelly Crack

Certificate presented to staff person.

Shelly Crack recently celebrated 10 years of service with Northern Health!

In every issue of A Healthier You, I have the pleasure of profiling a member of Northern Health’s amazing and diverse staff team. For our recent issue on local food, one name kept popping up when I was looking across our vast region for staff members with a passion in this area: Shelly Crack, a community dietitian on Haida Gwaii.

Shelly is a champion of local food who, amongst other things, works with local schools to support students to grow, harvest, prepare, and eat healthy, local food. She recently celebrated ten years of service with Northern Health and was also recently presented, along with fellow Northern Health staff member Christopher Horner, with a 2015 Citizen of the Year Award by the Masset Haida Lions Club.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to connect with Shelly to learn more about her interest in local food, her life on Haida Gwaii, and the programs that she supports. This profile was originally published in the May 2015 issue of A Healthier You.


Family photo

Shelly’s family values growing, gathering, and eating local food.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Northern Health.

For the last 10 years, I have been a community dietitian on Haida Gwaii. This is my first job out of school and I love it! After seven years of travelling and working between Hazelton and Haida Gwaii, I settled on the north end of Haida Gwaii where I currently live with my wife, our two children and an incredible community of friends.

Amongst other things that I do as the community dietitian, about five years ago I began to connect with the provincial Farm to School program. Through that program, we connect directly with local producers to bring food grown, harvested, gathered, and hunted on Haida Gwaii into schools. At this point, every school on island is engaged with Local Food to School and some schools have local ingredients included in every menu item.

We recently received a Healthy Communities grant from Northern Health to grow this program. We’ll be able to bring local, traditional food into the hospital for special events, continue to support local hot lunch and experiential learning programs, and create a local food pantry in Masset where local food can be sourced, sold, processed, preserved, and distributed to food programs.

In addition to being the community dietitian, I also coordinate the chronic disease management program in Masset. Working in both of these roles is motivating because as a dietitian, I work directly with individuals with chronic disease and with the local food system aiming to improve nutrition of the entire community. For me, healthy, local, sustainable food is one of the key tools that we have to combat chronic illness.

Family in a kayak

During a three-week paddling trip of Gwaii Haanas National Park, Shelly, her wife, and two year old daughter dehydrated 21 days’ worth of food – most of which came from their garden!

What are some of the best features of Haida Gwaii and the north coast that support local food?

Local food is deeply valued on Haida Gwaii – it is one of the reasons why people live here! It is so amazing to see how my interest and passion for local food is matched with other peoples’ energy. The local food movement is happening island-wide and so many people – the Haida, local fisheries, teachers, students and others – are involved in bringing local food programs to life. There’s just so much momentum!

This is also a beautiful place for food! There are hundreds of pounds of chanterelles in our forests and an amazing bounty of fish and seafood. When I was pregnant with my son, my wife, two year old daughter and I paddled in Gwaii Haanas National Park. The trek took us three weeks and to prepare, we dehydrated 21 days’ worth of food, most of it taken right from our garden. We fished and ate locally the whole way!

Two plates with local food items

Mushrooms, berries, and bountiful fish and seafood are just some of the local food options on Haida Gwaii, “a beautiful place for food”, where local food is deeply valued.

What do you do to live a healthy life?

My family values growing, gathering, and eating food but in addition to local food, I stay active. Whether it’s biking to work, walking on the beach, practising yoga, kayaking, or camping on weekends, I love the peacefulness that sets Haida Gwaii apart from busy centres.

My community also supports my health. My family shares land, a garden, food preparation, and child care responsibilities with another family. This co-operative support and strong social connectedness on Haida Gwaii supports health.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Foodie Friday: Enjoy B.C.’s bounty this summer

Grilled corn and tomatoes on a table.

How are you enjoying B.C.’s bounty this long weekend? Grill some local corn, pull some tomatoes from the vine, and give Marianne’s salad a try!

Summertime in B.C. is awesome! We can get outside and enjoy our favourite activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming throughout our amazing province. It’s also a great time to up our healthy eating game as our gardens, farmers markets, and grocery stores are filled with fresh B.C. produce! I know I can hardly wait for those summer months when I can finally sink my teeth into B.C.-grown nectarines, raspberries, corn on the cob, and more.

There are many benefits to enjoying B.C.-grown fruits and vegetables

  • Local produce is the freshest produce you can buy – it’s picked ripe and ready to eat and delivered to you quickly, especially if it’s coming from your own backyard! This means it tastes better, looks better, and retains more nutrients.
  • Local produce is better for the environment – fruit and vegetables grown in other countries have to travel long distances and require more packaging to make it to your plate.
  • Choosing B.C. produce supports our local economies – when you choose B.C. produce at the grocery store or shop at your local farmers market you are supporting those producers in your community.

Whether you grow your own, visit your local farmers market, or shop at the grocery store, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the bounty of B.C. And what better time to do so than this B.C. Day long weekend! If you are hosting a BBQ, having a lakeside picnic, or going to a potluck, try out this crowd-pleasing salad. It’s packed full of flavour and uses a variety of produce you can find growing in our awesome province.

Happy B.C. Day everyone!

Salad and dressing

This grilled corn, arugula, and couscous salad is a celebration of B.C. produce. Enjoy it at your next BBQ, lakeside picnic, or family gathering!

Grilled corn, arugula, and couscous salad

Adapted from The Wellness Kitchen Cookbook, by Paulette Lambert, RD

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup water
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat couscous
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3 ears of corn, grilled and kernels cut from cob
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ⅓ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing

  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in couscous, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
  2. In a large salad bowl, toss couscous, arugula, tomatoes, corn, avocado, pumpkin seeds, cranberries. Set aside.
  3. For the dressing, in a blender or food processor, add basil, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  4. To serve, toss the salad with the dressing, then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

Tips

  • Keep the dressing and salad separate until you are ready to serve to avoid soggy arugula.
  • You can also replace the couscous with quinoa or millet to make it gluten-free.
Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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It takes a community to raise a garden

Vanderhoof community garden.

The Vanderhoof Community Garden has evolved – and continues to evolve – into an amazing gathering space that celebrates local food, community, and knowledge sharing.

Since moving to Vanderhoof a couple of years ago, one of the neatest things that I’ve seen happen is the emergence of an amazing community garden from the ground up. Having seen community gardens in neighbourhoods in Victoria and Vancouver, I had a certain idea of what a space like this might look like. For me, the Vanderhoof Community Garden blew those expectations out of the water!

The very first line of Growing Together, a knowledge-sharing book created as part of the Vanderhoof Community Garden project, reads:

It takes a community to raise a garden.

For me, these simple words capture the essence of the Vanderhoof Community Garden and the journey that it has taken from a small idea to a space that celebrates local food, community, and learning.

When I spoke with Maya Sullivan, one of the drivers behind the Vanderhoof Community Garden, she shared her thoughts that “this is truly a community project … the fact that a small seed of an idea could become such an amazing space for connection, such a healthy community space, continues to amaze me.”

The story of the Vanderhoof Community Garden is one of dedicated volunteers, extensive partnerships, overcoming challenges, and celebration. The small seed that grew into this beautiful space was planted over 10 years ago when a small group of community members volunteered their time and energy to start a modest community garden near the Vanderhoof Community Museum. That particular location was never ideal – lots of moose, heavy clay soil, no space for tools, and spring runoff that washed away manure that had been tilled into the garden – but a number of passionate volunteers kept that project going for a number of years. After a particularly difficult spring in 2012 when melting snow created a creek through the garden that carried off valuable soil, the group went back to the drawing board.

It is from this drawing board that the current community garden, officially opened with a harvest celebration in September 2014, emerged. A look around at the grand opening event revealed a magnificent garden, a beautiful covered space to gather, two greenhouses, dozens of raised beds, on-site water and a wheelchair-accessible flush toilet, and hundreds of smiling community members. Partners had come together, volunteers devoted thousands of hours to planning and work bees, kids got their hands dirty, seniors shared their knowledge, and the end result was a beautiful space to gather, grow, share, and learn.

Three gardeners in a greenhouse

Knowledge-sharing aplenty happens in the Vanderhoof Community Garden. In the shared greenhouse space, gardeners get tips on how to prune suckers.

The garden is a place to work together

The list of project partners for the beautiful community garden in Vanderhoof is impressive. The Nechako Valley Food Network and their amazing volunteers provided the spark that began this project, the energy to keep pushing it forward, and a hub for interested individuals and groups to connect and collaborate. The Integris Community Foundation provided the first significant grant to breathe life into the idea. The District of Vanderhoof and School District 91 collaborated to find and donate a new site for the garden. The Farm to School program at WL McLeod Elementary School connected with the garden to produce local food for hot lunches. The Seniors Connected program became involved to improve accessibility in the garden, create mentorship opportunities, and share knowledge. Northern Health provided grant funding to support the initiative. Countless local businesses and volunteers donated time, materials, expertise, and labour to the project. The garden would not have happened without this support and, importantly, the garden continues to attract new partners, ideas, and projects.

The garden is a place for everyone

Early on in the project, accessibility was a key consideration. The raised beds – most of which were built by local high school students – were created to be wheelchair accessible and to minimize bending. The garden includes an accessible flush toilet, a covered structure for respite, and shared tools thanks to a recent donation. The raised beds and garden plots themselves are open to everyone who signs up at no charge. The community garden is successful in part because it has eliminated so many potential barriers to entry and welcomes gardeners of any age, skill level, neighbourhood, or income level.

The garden is a place to connect

The garden creates a space where people can connect, meet, and share knowledge. These people may not otherwise have a reason to meet but local food and the community garden provide that reason. The garden site supports this connection. It is central, close to schools and homes, and connects to the Vanderhoof community trail system.

The garden is a place to get away

With a beautiful view of the Nechako River and lots of space to enjoy, the garden is also a place for relaxation and quiet reflection. With nothing but the sound of the river to distract you, the garden provides a peaceful place for community members to spend a warm summer evening reconnecting with themselves and with nature.

Gardener holding a zucchini and watering plants.

There’s no shortage of fresh, delicious produce in the garden!

The garden is a place to grow

When talking to volunteer organizers and garden users, it is surprising how long it takes before the issue of food actually comes up! All of the connections, partnerships, and learning have created a bounty of local food! A walk through the raised beds and greenhouse structures reveals tomatoes, peppers, squash, leafy greens, strawberries, peas, carrots, beets, and more! There are plans for potatoes, fruit trees, and berry bushes this year. Individual gardeners take their bounty home and the students, parents, and teachers from WL McLeod Elementary School harvest their crops and spend a day preserving so that the kitchen staff can use them in hot lunches throughout the year.

Older woman showing a young girl how to sow seeds.

The garden is a place to learn! On any given day, you might see more experienced gardeners sharing their skills with first-time seed sowers!

The garden is a place to learn

On any given day in the Vanderhoof Community Garden, you might see a class of elementary school students with mentors, a group of seniors sharing their vast knowledge, or simply two people – previously strangers – swapping tips. Some of this learning has been formalized as the local Seniors Connected group created a book, Growing Together, that shares their collective 600 years of local gardening knowledge. There are plans to offer gardening workshops in the space this year.

With all of these amazing garden qualities, it’s no wonder that the garden organizers are still in awe of how far they’ve come. Maya sums it up this way:

This has truly evolved beyond my wildest dreams and it keeps evolving based on what different members of the community bring to it.

That evolution will surely be fun to watch, as despite all of the incredible successes of the Vanderhoof Community Garden thus far, there is still half of the garden site left to be cultivated and transformed. The growing, learning, sharing, and connecting have just gotten started!


A version of this story first appeared in the May 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Celebrating First Nations traditional foods

Community garden in greenhouse structure

At community gardens like this one in Cheslatta, First Nations communities are building on the knowledge and skills of Elders to ensure access to healthy food for all. Have you tried any First Nations traditional foods?
(Photo credit: Hilary McGregor, Aboriginal Health, Northern Health)

Many Elders and health providers from First Nations communities have shared their knowledge with me about traditional foods. I am repeatedly surprised by the flavour, nutritional value and health benefits of traditional foods. I tell my significant other, who is a member of the Kitselas First Nation, that his canned salmon is like “pure gold” because of how much work and care he puts into harvesting and processing the fish – not to mention how amazing it tastes!

Working as a dietitian, I have learned nutritional information about traditional foods that I didn’t know before. For example, seaweed is an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Moose is rich in protein and B vitamins. Most wild game is higher in nutrients than livestock and food products made from livestock like bologna and wieners.

My children are Nisga’a and we were fortunate to be given some eulachon this year. Eulachon are small, oil-rich fish that spawn in rivers along the west coast. They are high in vitamin A and calcium. Vitamin A helps our bodies to fight infection and keeps our eyes and skin healthy while calcium helps to keep our bones and teeth strong.

In addition to the nutritional value of the food itself, another great advantage of traditional food gathering is the health benefits from harvesting such as connecting with the land and with one’s culture and family, as well as exercise. These are important aspects of holistic health and well-being.

Gardening is another way to access fresh and nutritious food, connect with family, and be physically active. In my work, I notice more First Nations communities across the north developing community gardens and harvesting or growing traditional plants and medicines. Many of these communities are remote and have limited access to healthy store-bought foods, which is all the more reason to build on the knowledge and skills of Elders to ensure access to healthy food for all.

There is so much to learn, celebrate and sustain! For more information on traditional foods and nutrition, check out the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Use your muscles where your food is

Adult showing child how to sow seeds.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” Photo credit: Christine Glennie-Visser

Using muscles is about more than getting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily for adults. Research strongly reminds us that we need to sit less and move more and the term “sitting disease” is becoming more widely used. What does this have to do with food, you might ask?

Two of the easiest things we can change personally to build and maintain health is healthy eating and active living. One of the messages we use to remind everyone to increase their physical activity throughout their day is “use muscles not motors,” which comes from the Canadian Society of Exercise Professionals and is part of the promotional messaging for the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

You may still be wondering what this has to do with food. Many of us use the motors in our vehicles to drive to the local grocery store as the easiest option to get groceries. There are many ways to be active and get your food – pushing a shopping cart around your local grocery store is just one option. HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) in northern B.C. began in 2001 with a focus on getting people more active in order to be healthier. More importantly, though, HEAL focused on gardening as a means to both be more physically active and eat healthier. Gardening is a win-win way to be active! It provides not only full body exercise, blood, sweat and sometimes tears, but you get good food as a result of your efforts.

Perhaps you aren’t really into gardening and would rather get your fruits and vegetables by walking down to your local farmers market or pushing that cart around a local store. Most farmers markets offer meat and sometimes fish in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, but imagine the fun physical activity you would enjoy if you went hunting or fishing to stock your own freezer for the winter, or to enjoy a succulent grilled fish you have harvested from a northern lake, stream or ocean. As a parent raising a family, and now as a grandparent enjoying grandchildren, there is a well-known philosophy that has been a constant current beneath my family’s relationship with food:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

This is the perfect time of year to go outdoors, turn over some soil, plant and nurture some seeds, and look forward to the harvest. It is also the perfect time of year to grab a fishing pole, some bait and go fishing. Maybe you love hunting and you spend time in the summer getting ready for the fall hunting seasons. Whatever your connection to food, consider putting not only your own muscles to work to grow, gather and harvest your groceries but involve a child, too, so they can learn where their food really comes from and be more physically active while they learn.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables!

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A Healthier You (May 2015)

Cover of A Healthier You

The May 2015 issue of A Healthier You is all about local food and gardening, with tips, tricks, and insights for the north, from the north!

If you’re anything like me, this week’s sunny weather – which seems to be warming every corner of our region – has you thinking about gardening. Since moving to northern B.C. a few years ago, I’ve come to realize that for many, the May long weekend is the opening day of gardening season. The other thing I’ve noticed is that local gardening knowledge can be hard to find! Sure, there are books about patio gardening in Vancouver or kitchen gardens on Vancouver Island, but our zones seem to be forgotten!

This is why I’m so excited that the newest issue of Northern Health’s quarterly healthy living magazine, A Healthier You, is now available. The issue, available online and in print in various locations around the north, is all about local food and gardening!

For me, a few highlights in this issue include:

  • Tips on how to make the most of our short growing season.
  • How gardening, berry-picking, and farmers market visits can help me get my minimum 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.
  • Valuable information on how to stay safe while fishing this spring and summer (because, let’s be honest, while the May long weekend is the start of gardening season for me, it’s the start of boating season for others!).
  • Some insights on how my humble garden might tie into big picture issues of food security and healthy communities.
  • A jealousy-inducing look at local food on Haida Gwaii.

I hope that you enjoy the newest issue of the magazine! And remember that all past issues are also available online!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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