Healthy Living in the North

Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

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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Staff food hamper helping feed seniors in Quesnel

Elizabeth standing next to a box of non-perishable food.

Elizabeth Onciul, NH Care Aide, with one of the food hampers at Dunrovin Lodge in Quesnel.

Staff at Dunrovin Lodge have recognized co-worker Elizabeth Onciul for her dedication to seniors in Quesnel.

For over three months, Elizabeth, a care aide at Dunrovin Lodge, has set up food hampers at work to collect donations for seniors.

“You know the saying, these are our ‘golden years?’ Well that’s not always true,” says Elizabeth. “Our seniors have worked hard and shouldn’t have to worry if they will have enough for tomorrow’s meals.”

The collected food is then donated to a small community group in Quesnel. The anonymous group distributes the food to seniors in low income housing and to over 50 seniors in the community. Staff donate, on average, two large boxes and they’ve started to add bags of fruit on donation pickup days.

“Our staff has been very generous in their donations as we only ask for one non-perishable item per month,” Elizabeth explains.

Elizabeth first got the idea when speaking with her sister-in-law, whose workplace had a similar program set up to help seniors pay for food and medications. Elizabeth got the number of the community group and set up a pickup time.

Great work, Elizabeth, for seeing a need and making a positive impact on the senior community in Quesnel! Also, a big thank you to the rest of the staff in Quesnel for donating food and helping Elizabeth with this awesome initiative!

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in internal communications at NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife and daughter. He’s a techie and loves to learn about new smartphones and computers. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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The Northern Table: Farm to School BC blossoms in the Northwest

People creating a garden.

Students working the school garden at Smithers Secondary School.

How do you get students excited about healthy, local food? According to Farm to School BC, the winning formula is simple: get students involved by providing opportunities to grow, prepare, taste, and explore healthy, local food!

Established in 2007, Farm to School BC (F2SBC) is a diverse and expanding provincial program that works to support healthy eating and sustainable regional food systems. This is done by working to have local food in schools, providing hands-on learning activities, and building school-community connections. Farm to School BC programs are tailored to the interests and needs of each school and community.

To date, F2SBC has supported 33 Farm to School initiatives across Northern BC, and is committed to supporting and inspiring even more programs across the region. Recognizing the need to provide on-the-ground support, the Northwest Regional Hub was launched, with Margo Peill as the Hub’s Community Animator.

A tray of sprouting plants.

A classroom project at Ecole Mountainview in Terrace, BC.

The Northwest Hub includes the geographic areas of the Coast Mountains School District (#82) and the Bulkley Valley School District (#54). Margo will be working with schools, farmers, and community partners to strengthen local partnerships and networks that will support sustainable F2SBC programs in the years to come.

I caught up with Margo to learn more about Farm to School BC in the Northwest, and some of the exciting opportunities she is supporting! Here’s what Margo had to say!

What are some examples of current Farm to School initiatives in the region?

We have some fantastic projects happening in the Northwest region! Each school develops their own unique projects that work within their school and community. Some projects include:

  • Cultivating bountiful school gardens
  • Experimenting with tower gardening and microgreens in the classroom
  • Incubating and hatching chicks
  • Dehydrating fruit gathered from their community for school snacks
  • Salad bar programs
  • Field trips to forage traditional and wild foods

The projects really do look different in each school, and so far, that is something we’ve seen the Northwest Hub really excelling at — coming up with creative solutions to incorporate Farm to School BC projects into the curriculum and classroom!

Can you tell me more about your role and the role of the F2SBC Northwest Regional Hub?

We’re really excited to take a community development approach to growing Farm to School BC programs in the Northwest region. Through the Northwest Regional Hub, we’ll be building networks, growing strong relationships with community partners, supporting their initiatives, and working to secure additional funding and support for the Northwest Hub.

One of our core values is to support school and community connectedness, so we really want to ensure that teachers and school champions have a strong network around them to help support the sustainability and growth of their projects. We’ll be hosting learning circles, professional development days, networking events, and an annual spring celebration to highlight and share the inspiring work that is happening here in the Northwest region.

How can local community members and groups get involved in Farm to School activities?

We are always looking for collaborations, even unlikely ones! On May 22, we’ll be hosting an official Northwest Hub launch and networking event at Cassie Hall Elementary (2620 Eby St., Terrace). Everyone is welcome to attend, share, and learn more about Farm to School BC programs while making community connections. The event will take place from 4:30 pm to 6 pm and some light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Note: Farm to School BC is administered by the Public Health Association of BC and supported by the Province of British Columbia and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Supporting healthy community development at the NCLGA Convention

NH staff posing at their trade show booth at the NCLGA Conference.

L-R: Jeff Kormos, Healthy Settings Advisor; Dr. Sandra Allison, NH Chief Medical Health Officer; and Holly Hughes, Healthy Settings Advisor; at the NCLGA Conference trade show booth they co-hosted with Interior Health staff.

Northern Health (NH) and Interior Health (IH) joined forces this week to share information about healthy communities at this year’s North Central Local Government Association Convention in Williams Lake.

NH and IH co-hosted the pre-conference event, “Resilient & Healthy Communities,” the 4th annual Northern Healthy Communities Forum. The event is an opportunity for health authority staff to engage with elected officials from 100 Mile House and everything North.

“We are sharing resources for local governments to support them to develop healthy policies and address community health needs in their communities across the North,” said Holly Hughes, Healthy Settings Advisor. “Community needs vary with respect to health and we have brought contact information, tools, and resources to support local action.”

Dr. Allison on stage, next to her presentation on Opioids and our Communities.

Mayors and Councillors had the opportunity to hear Dr. Sandra Allison, NH Chief Medical Health Officer, talk about the opioid response in the North.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Looking at local data at the NCLGA Convention

Vash Ebbadi and Gillian Frost speaking in front of an audience.

Vash Ebbadi (NH) and Gillian Frost (IH) speaking to the NCLGA audience about the importance of local data in health care.

Vash Ebbadi (Northern Health) and Gillian Frost (Interior Health) presented to community leaders today at the 2019 North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) Convention in Williams Lake on local health data and how information can inform local action.

“I was very happy to share some of my knowledge about data with the attendees today,” said Vash, regional manager of PPH Support Unit and an epidemiologist. “Epidemiology is all about analyzing health data in order to improve strategies around health care and prevent illness, so this was a great opportunity to talk about local-level health data and its importance in supporting community health, well-being, and resilience.”

Steve Raper

About Steve Raper

Steve is the Chief of External Relations and Communications for Northern Health, where he leads marketing, communications, web and media relations activities. He has a business diploma from the College of New Caledonia, a BA from the University of Northern BC and a master’s degree in business administration from Royal Roads University. In his spare time, Steve volunteers on a number of boards, including Canadian Blood Services, Pacific Sport Northern BC and the Prince George Youth Soccer Association. To stay active, he enjoys camping, and playing soccer and hockey.

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Community paramedics partner with Northern Health communities to increase access to care

Community paramedics are changing patient care in some communities in Northern Health. They’re helping increase access to basic health care services in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes, or in the community. Throughout Northern Health, 26 communities have community paramedics helping patients.

Patients can see a community paramedic if they’re referred to them by their doctor or health care team, or when they’re discharged from the hospital.

Community paramedics are employed by BC Emergency Health Services, but they work very closely with the teams of health care professionals in the community.

In Fort St. James, the “biggest positive is she [the community paramedic] works really well and has a positive relationship with the First Nations bands. She’s a great liaison for information and understanding their culture,” says Cathy York, team lead for Fort St. James.

The health care team and the community paramedic in Fort St. James are encouraged to share information and they all have a great working relationship. The community paramedic does a lot with the First Nations bands on naloxone training for overdose prevention, and also educates people on diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. She’s also starting to work with local schools to do naloxone training.

Fraser Lake saw benefits when the first community paramedic started. At the time, they were short on nurses, so it was difficult for them to have eyes on some of the people they were concerned about in the community.

“We’re so thrilled to have the program start here, and the paramedics are such an asset to the team,” says Lora Lee Pacheco, team lead for Fraser Lake.

The community paramedic attends team meetings (called “huddles”) in Fraser Lake, which has helped close loops and encourage open communication. If there’s a concern with a patient, the community paramedic will bring it up to the team and sometimes suggest that the physician pay a home visit. They’re proactive in their care and address people’s health concerns early on.

“For example, a man used to come in every second week to the doctor’s office and was going to the hospital once a month. Now, because of the home visits of the community paramedic, he hasn’t been in the hospital since July,” says Lora Lee. “It just goes to show how important it is to check in on people and how far this program goes to prevent hospital admissions.”

Fraser Lake’s community paramedic has also taken over naloxone and CPR training in the community itself, as well as in surrounding First Nations communities. To save time, she’s also spending 1-2 hours a week at the Autumn Services Centre to follow up with people she would normally do a home visit with.

In Burns Lake, the community paramedic started only a few months ago. Since then, the team has found that he’s able to catch concerns with patients earlier on than if they waited to see their doctor. To help prevent crises, he’ll bring patients with any concerns directly to the health care team – another great example of how community paramedics are partnering with Northern Health and the local community health care teams to provide better patient care.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Valemount knows granting season

Kids and adults on x-country skis.

X-country skiing gives the winter some much needed outside boost!

As you’re probably aware, it’s the spring IMAGINE granting season, and applications are coming in from all over Northern BC. Through our social media promotions of the program, I was lucky enough to connect with Rita Rewerts of the Canoe Valley Community Association (CVCA) in Valemount BC. During her tenure with the CVCA, Rita has applied and been selected for two IMAGINE Community Grants. What a pro!

We chatted about her background, the mountains in the area, how rad Valemount is… oh and how the grants have affected Valemount’s community. Here’s what she had to say!

How long have you been in Valemount and what’s your involvement in the Canoe Valley Community Association?

I moved to Valemount from Vancouver Island (Nanaimo) 25 years ago! I’m now happily retired from my job as a homecare nurse. Currently, I’m the vice president for the Association, and one of my main roles is to act as a liaison between the board and employees for programming. It’s awesome – how can you not love doing things for the kids!?

Cooking equipment on a table in a kitchen.

IMAGINE the creations this cooking equipment will whip up!

What did the IMAGINE grants help with and how were they successful?

We’ve applied for two grants and started two great programs: x-country skiing and a cooking program. I think both of the programs have been very successful, and our community has benefited too!

For our skiing program, we partnered with Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) to help instruct participants on how to ski. The IMAGINE grant helped us purchase the skis and gear, but wow, is it ever expensive to buy skis for growing kids! So, we opted to buy a wide range of sizes, from youth to adult. Now as a lasting bonus, we’re able to offer skis and gear to the community during the winter for a small fee. It’s been great, and hugely beneficial for the community. Kids, adults and whole families love to get out and ski. Skiing for everybody!

For the cooking program, the grant helped us go from small to big. The idea was to partner with the high school to teach cooking from scratch, but it became too successful for the space we were using. So we moved to the Lions Club, where the IMAGINE grant helped buy cooking equipment like mixers, pans, and utensils.

It’s been very rewarding to see this idea take flight. The kids love cooking. Right from six years old, they take on Food Safe, learn about canning, baking cakes, cookies, whole meals – you name it. Our next project to enhance the program is to build a permaculture garden to grow our own ingredients!

Is there another IMAGINE grant application in your future?

Yes, there sure is! I’m in the process for writing another grant for this cycle. We really believe that programming should be based on what community interests are, and you have to be in constant contact with the community to find out what they want. So for this cycle, we polled kids for ideas through the school! There seems to be a real hunger to learn how to draw and paint. So we will be looking into artsy things: art classes, easels, paints, broad spectrum things. Should be exciting!

Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking about applying for a grant?

Don’t be afraid! If you have the passion and a good idea, just go for it. Northern Health has been really helpful through all of the granting process, so you don’t really have much to worry about! What’s the worst that can happen? Your idea might be the next best thing for the whole community, which is so positive. Just do it!

Apply today!

Grant applications are being accepted March 1 through to March 31. Check out the application guide and form and get started! If you’re looking for tips on applying, check out our handy blog, IMAGINE Community Grants: Key factors for success in community!

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IMAGINE grant: Discover Daycare

The outdoor play equipment and safety surface at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

It’s no secret that active outdoor play is important for children. In a recent paper on the benefits of outdoor active play, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and their partners state that kids who are outside move more and sit less, which contributes to a wide variety of health benefits.

The importance of outdoor play was clear to the Discovery Childcare Centre in Prince Rupert, but they just didn’t have the equipment to support that active play outdoors. And so, when the Board of Directors for the centre identified a new playground as a priority, they turned to the IMAGINE Community Grants program to help make the vision a reality.

More of the outdoor play equipment at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

Through years of focused effort, the daycare fundraised almost $40,000 to put toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment for the 32 kids in their care. Their efforts took dedication and commitment, and in fall 2017 they were very close to achieving their goal!

However, one key piece remained: site preparation, including the purchase and installation of Playfall Tile, a rubberized safety surface manufactured from recycled tires that would cushion the inevitable falls of the hundreds of children who would enjoy the equipment over the years.  The quote for this work came in at roughly $5,000, and so the Board approved the submission of an application for an IMAGINE grant. The application was approved in spring 2018 and work began in June.

After its completion in August 2018, the new playground was an immediate hit with the kids attending the centre. Having a safe place to play outside, and the right equipment for that play, made a big difference for everyone. The centre has already observed that there is room for more growth in the future, with a key focus being the development of a garden area near the playground that will let kids learn about planting, growing, and eating fresh food. IMAGINE is proud to have contributed to this amazing project, and look forward to hearing about the centre’s successes in the future!

The IMAGINE Grant spring cycle is now accepting applications! Get yours in today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE (granting) that

It’s that time of year again, and we’re very excited! The month of March means an opportunity for anyone to take a healthy community idea and work towards making it a reality! That’s right, the spring IMAGINE Community Grants cycle has begun.

I started working at Northern Health a couple years ago, and one of my favourite things to watch has been IMAGINE Grants coming to life. There’s been so many awesome ideas put into communities, here are some of my favourites!

Youth skateboarders posing with their helmets on.

If You’re Gonna Play… Protect the Brain
The Prince Rupert RCMP worked on their goal to get at least 75% of bikers and skateboarders wearing helmets.

Children posing with signs that spell out Thank You for Supporting the Ark.

Get Outside Families
The Treehouse Housing Association taught children to help prepare healthy, on-the-go snacks to share with their parents while they explored Telkwa’s forests as families!

A view from the back of a dragon boat canoe, with paddles in the air.

Dragon Boating for All
The Quesnel Canoe Club offered community groups the chance to experience the sport of dragon boating. The project promoted safe, healthy, active living and aims to encourage more people to join the sport of paddling.

Young students in the classroom holding up books about dog education.

Dog Bite Safety Prevention
2022 students in 13 communities engaged in discussion around injury prevention through safe and positive interactions with dogs and learned how to be a responsible dog guardian. Tools and resources were provided to all participants to take home to share with their families.

You can view many more IMAGINE Grants on our IMAGINE map!

Apply Today!

You might be thinking, what do all of these grants have in common? Well, they’re healthy, good for the community, and honestly, not much else – but that’s the beauty of it! From community gardens, to skate parks, to healthy meal classes, to roller dance lessons… The canvas is blank and the colourful paints are available! No ideas are bad ideas, you just have to apply.

Grant applications are being accepted March 1 through to March 31. Check out the application guide and form and get started! If you’re looking for tips on applying, check out our handy blog, IMAGINE Community Grants: Key factors for success in community!

Good luck!

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IMAGINE Grant: Trail Blazers

Riding a bike is one of those experiences that most people associate with being a kid, but the truth is many kids don’t get the chance to have that experience. The cost of buying a bike is a major barrier for some families, and additional costs like helmets and maintenance can put the activity out of reach. Many students at Westwood Elementary School in Prince George are among those not fortunate enough to own a bike, and this motivated a teacher, Tanja Wilson, to apply for an IMAGINE Community Grant to start the Trail Blazers program at the school.

Westwood school kids on bikes.

“I saw the need for some of our youth to be able to enjoy bike riding, and I wanted to incorporate it into an after school program so that everyone could join,” says Wilson. “I wanted to help kids learn not only how to ride a bike, but also safety rules and basic bike fixes such as how to put a chain back on, and how to lower a seat.” 

With funding in place, Tanja first set out to purchase the equipment: 25 bikes, 25 helmets, and 25 sets of pads, in sizes to accommodate students of all ages. She then arranged lessons about bike safety and maintenance for the kids, including hand signals, crossing roads, and how to replace a broken chain. Once this was completed, it was ride time.

“It was FANTASTIC!! Not only did the students enjoy it, their parents did as well.”

The program ran twice a week for primary students and twice for intermediates. The route between Westwood Elementary and nearby Ginters Park quickly became a fan favourite. At the park, the kids explored trails and were able to enjoy a healthy snack before riding back to school!

The program was a hit, seeing huge growth in participation over time and giving many students the opportunity to engage in fun, healthy, and safe physical activity with their friends.

All kids should have the chance to play, but sometimes barriers they can’t control get in the way. By supporting projects like Trail Blazers, the IMAGINE Community Grants program helps break these barriers down, one ride at a time. The Spring 2019 IMAGINE intake opens to applications on March 1, 2019, with applications due March 31. For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants web page.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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