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.
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.
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!
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.
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.