Healthy Living in the North

Following up with past Community Health Star Seamus Damstrom

Seamus and his parents posing at graduation.

Seamus with his parents, Scott and Jenny, at his graduation from the College of the Rockies.

Four years ago, Seamus Damstrom was a grade 12 student in Terrace, with a passion for healthy eating and creating healthy change among his classmates. We were so impressed with the food revolution he brought to his school that we recognized him as a Community Health Star, and although several years have gone by, I’m happy to report that his interest in nutrition hasn’t wavered, but has only grown stronger.

I recently reconnected with Seamus to learn more about what he’s up to and hear about his plans to become a registered dietitian – and have found out he’s still an amazing health advocate, living up to his Community Health Star status!

You were recognized as a Community Health Star in December 2014 – what did that mean to you?

When I was recognized as a Community Health Star, I was very shocked, as I had never been recognized for a project that I had done. After the initial shock of the recognition I was truly honoured and humbled to have my story shared and I hoped that it could inspire other youth to find creative solutions to local issues. I look back at this recognition as a motivating factor that provided me with more evidence that a career in food and nutrition is the right thing for me to pursue. I think the whole process of being on the Healthy Living Youth Council of BC, to developing and conducting a project was extremely important for my personal and professional development.

Seamus at a long dinner table.

Seamus at the Farm to Fork Dinner, a fundraiser for the Cranbrook Food Action Committee, for which he worked with for the last three summers.

What have you been up to since graduating high school?

Shortly after graduation, I decided to take two years of prerequisite courses at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook. Life always has a funny way of changing your course and that happened to me as I actually ended up staying there for three years. At the time I was frustrated as I wanted to get to UBC to get underway with my Dietetics program but now I wouldn’t change a thing. I graduated from College of the Rockies last April with a certificate in Arts and Science and now I am currently attending UBC in the Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Health program.

One awesome thing about being in Cranbrook for three years was the connections and opportunities I found. Over the last three summers, I‘ve had the honour of working at a local public produce garden conducting various work groups, student classes, and other food literacy activities, as well as distributing and organizing our local BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program for both Cranbrook and Kimberley Farmers’ Markets.

For the last three years, I also volunteered with the Canadian Mental Health Association Senior Assisted Shopping Program, a program that pairs volunteers with senior citizens in the community to help them grocery shop and carry their groceries in every week. These experiences helped me get involved in the community when I first moved there – and it was fun listening to each senior’s unique story!

I also have had the pleasure of being on the College of the Rockies Board of Governors and Education Council, and two years ago I was nominated by Canadian Mental Health as a local Game Changer in the categories of Health and Wellness and Youth for my work in the community. I love to stay busy and try to give back to my community in any way I can.

How has your passion for food and health developed or evolved since high school?

With all the opportunities I have had the pleasure to participate in, my passion for food and health has grown even larger. One thing I love about food is how it can tell one’s story in it. When I was at the College working as an International Activities Assistant, we would do an event every two weeks called “International Cooking,” where we got groups of students to cook and serve a traditional cultural dish. This activity brought students together and, in my opinion, created a stronger community at the College.

I have really developed a keen interest in food policy and its importance in providing the framework for positive change in our food system. Furthermore, I am very passionate about food and nutrition education especially with youth and children as you can really leave an impression on them when it comes to food. By creating a positive environment to learn about, taste, and share food, youth can be inspired to further explore food and this excites me. We can never forget how important educating youth is especially when it comes to food and health.

A really cool opportunity I am involved in now is as a Nutrikids Ambassador. Nutrikids is a club at UBC that focuses on improving food literacy in elementary and primary school students in Vancouver. I am the leader for my pod and we conduct nutrition/food workshops for a kindergarten/grade 1 class. To date, we have done four 80 minute workshops to a class of 30 students with each workshop focusing on a specific food (e.g. beet, corn, dragonfruit, and apple). These workshops focus on developing the kids’ food identification skills, ways to describe food through their senses. The workshops are filled with fun hands-on activities for the kids to use their senses and explore the ‘food of the day’ further. It’s been a blast and I have really found my love for teaching in this position!

I understand you are still interested in becoming a dietitian – tell me about your plans.

I am finally at UBC to continue my education and career goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian. I am applying for the Dietetics Major this January with an intended fall intake into the program if my application is successful. After that, I would have two years of course work at UBC and a 36-week Practice Education at a registered health authority in BC. I would prefer to conduct my Practice Education in a rural community like the communities Northern Health and Interior Health support. I want to be able to use my knowledge to not only help improve our healthcare system but to improve the lives of those who are marginalized through food!

Do you know someone who is helping to improve the health of their community? Nominate them as a Community Health Star today!

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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Community Health Stars: Wayne Mould

Man curling.

Northern Health is pleased to announce our Community Health Star for the month of February: Wayne Mould! Wayne is a founding member of the running club in Dawson Creek (a “running club for everyone”) and is committed to supporting people to make walking and running part of their lifestyle!

Northern Health’s first two Community Health Stars – Myles Mattila of Prince George and Seamus Damstrom of Terrace – exemplified the power of youth to promote health and wellness in their community. Not to be outdone, our Community Health Star for the month of January reminds us all that it is never too late to create healthy changes in your community and to incorporate new physical activities into your life. A retired teacher with a career that spanned 40 years, Wayne Mould has worked to keep the Dawson Creek running club going and growing for the last ten years. Not even a cancer diagnosis and surgery could keep Wayne down for long – just one year after a major cancer surgery, he was racing again and even winning his age category!

I had the pleasure of talking with Wayne about the running club, his impressive running resumé, and why supporting an active community is so important to him.

How did you get into running?

I started running in my late 50s after a bit of an off-the-cuff remark to my daughter, who runs regularly. She had just returned home after a six kilometre run, and I mentioned – as an inexperienced non-runner at the time – that she seemed quite tired after “just” six kilometres. Her response was that I should try running six kilometres. So, just to prove that I could, I started running with a few others and haven’t stopped!

Since that time, I’ve run about 15 half marathons, one full marathon, and 15 ten kilometre races. The highlights for me were races in Kelowna just after my 60th and 70th birthdays when I won my age groups. I’ve also raced the famous Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge seven times. That race is pretty special because you get a “permanent number” after five races so I’m proud to be part of that group.

How are you involved in the Dawson Creek running club?

I have been involved in the Dawson Creek running club for the last ten years. Together with some others, we’ve kept the club going and our members running through snow, rain, or shine! We organize four runs each week and the club members say that “Wayne will always be there.” I guess that I am the familiar face during all of the runs! I try to invite as many new members as possible and encourage everyone to join us on our runs.

Man running outside.

Whether snow, rain, or shine, Wayne is always out with new and existing running club members for their morning runs. Wayne is a familiar and friendly face eager to welcome new members and get more people active!

How is the Dawson Creek running club organized?

The group has a loose structure, which I believe encourages participation. We meet at the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek four times each week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:00 a.m. for a five kilometre run and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. for a longer run.

We call it the “running club for everyone” and even had some T-shirts made up with that slogan. We welcome all runners from first-timers to ultra-marathon runners. There is a lot of turnover – which is neat as we get to meet new people – and there are approximately 25 people who are loosely associated with the running club at any one point. Of these members, 3-15 runners will participate in any one run that we do.

I take our slogan – that we are a running club for everyone – very seriously! The social part of the club is very strong. Members have become very good friends because of the way that we run. We run for 10 minutes and walk for one minute, all at a pace that allows us to talk to each other.

The running club also organizes an annual run in Dawson Creek – the Windmill Run/Walk. The event is a 10 kilometre run or walk event (we don’t specify which!) and participants can turn around whenever they feel like it if 10 kilometres is too daunting. Our goal with this event is to generate interest in running and walking in Dawson Creek and to make it a part of people’s lifestyles. The event is becoming quite popular! First-time participants get medals, local doctors have been promoting it, and we had over 50 runners last year.

How did your cancer diagnosis impact your running?

Shortly after my 70th birthday, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I received excellent care – I really can’t say enough about how I was treated by the health system and health care professionals both in Dawson Creek and when I had to travel away from home for specialized care – and have recovered fully from an operation that removed the cancer and a kidney.

After about six weeks, I was walking with the running club again and after one year, I was running regularly and felt close to 90% of where I was before the diagnosis. After turning 71, I was racing again and even won my age group during a race that year.

What are your plans for 2015?

I will keep running! You’ll find me at the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek four mornings each week!

I may not do any more full marathons but I’d like to finish at least four races this year – in Grande Prairie, Chetwynd, Kelowna, and the Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge.


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

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. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Community Health Stars: Seamus Damstrom

Young man sitting on shore with a fishing rod.

Seamus Damstrom, a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C., is Northern Health’s Community Health Star for December!

Our Community Health Star for the month of December is an outstanding young man from Terrace who exemplifies what it means to have a passion for health and wellness and to turn that passion into action! Seamus Damstrom is a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C. He was the only northerner in the 2013-2014 cohort of the provincial Healthy Living Youth Council. As a member of that group, Seamus had the chance to lead a health-promoting project in his school.

I was fortunate to be able to connect with Seamus to talk about his project, his passion for healthy eating, and his approach to creating healthy change.

What is the Healthy Living Youth Council?

The Healthy Living Youth Council is a one-year program organized by DASH BC. Every year, students from across B.C. can apply to join the Healthy Living Youth Council. I had 13 students in my cohort and each one of us initiated a project to promote health and wellness in our school.

What type of project did you initiate at your school?

To figure out what I wanted to do, I asked myself, what are my passions? The answer: food and helping people achieve optimal health through food. At school, people know that I’m a big food guy so it made sense to start there.

At that point, I looked at our canteen and noticed that while there were a few healthy options, most of the food being purchased was items like nachos and pizza. I then decided that I would try to use our school canteen to start a food revolution – introducing healthy food options and trying to change students’ eating habits.

Young man wearing a helmet and goggles on a ski hill

Seamus initiated a project at his school to bring healthy food options to the canteen. How are you being a health star in your community?

How did you accomplish this?

It was a long process but I wanted to make sure to do it right – I knew that change wouldn’t happen if I acted like a dictator so I started with the canteen teacher. We had a great dialogue and found recipes that were healthy and feasible for the canteen to sell.

The next step was to see what my fellow students wanted – if they would actually buy these new food items. I spent four months developing and testing a survey that would let students at Caledonia rank different food items, rate their price, and tell us how often they would buy each item. During this time, I met with Northern Health dietitians, shared the survey with other Healthy Living Youth Council members, piloted the survey with 10 students, and re-designed the survey to make sure that it was ready to go. In March, 461 of 700 Caledonia students completed surveys and then I started the long process of entering and analyzing results. By April, I had my results ready to go and met with the canteen teacher again to put them into action.

To start the food revolution, we put three healthy items — hummus & pita (by far the most popular option in the survey!), homemade soup, and homemade chili — on the menu once a week. We also provided samples of these items before selling them to increase interest.

It was really important to me to do this project in a thoughtful and sustainable way. For example, instead of going in and removing the very popular nachos, which surely would have caused a riot, I worked with the canteen teacher and Northern Health dietitians to add some veggies to the nacho plate and kept the price higher than the new, healthier items. Now, for the 2014-2015 school year, nachos have been taken off of the menu and no one seems to have noticed!

How is the project going now?

I learned a ton during a reflection period after the new items had made their way onto the menu. I thought carefully about the project and applied these lessons to new food projects for this year. Although my time on the Healthy Living Youth Council is done (I’m a mentor to new participants now), a friend and I started a Healthy Living Club at my school. In addition to carrying on with the canteen food project, which is working on a follow-up survey, we have a food and nutrition bulletin board with tips and recipes at school and are working on a mental wellness board, too. The hummus and pita dish is still available in the canteen and we are working with the new canteen teacher on some new recipes. And the nachos are gone!

Young man in a park in running clothes

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program highlights exceptional individuals like Seamus who are improving health in their communities. Nominate a Community Health Star in your community!

Where did your passion for food come from?

My Grade 8 foods teacher got me into cooking. By grade 10, I wanted to become a chef and looked into the educational options for that. My parents told me to take a year to think about my different options before committing to a program and in that year, I realized that I’m more interested in using food to help people, so now I’m hoping to become a dietitian.

Food is everything for me and I strongly believe that everything you eat impacts you. Eating healthy can improve your life and I feel like there is so much to learn from food.

What is your message to people wanting to promote health in their community?

You’re never too small to make a change. I’m just a country bumpkin but I feel like I did pretty well on this project! It was a little change in a big world, but that’s where you start. Even the smallest voice can push the snowball down the hill and create a big change!


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

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. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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