Healthy Living in the North

Localize your lunch

Frozen berries, preserved produce, deer chops, and squash on a counter.

Adding local food like deer chops, squash, berries, or beets depends on where you live and a few other factors but there are some preservation tips and seasonal produce that can keep you lunching local all year round!

There’s something neat about eating local food. Somehow food that you have grown, fished, hunted, gathered, or gotten from someone you know is just … better.

But why does it seem better? Pop quiz!

  1. Do you feel a sense of pride and self-reliance in growing, getting or “putting up” your own food?
  2. Do you feel local food is somehow more real, more nourishing, and more satisfying?
  3. Do you value food travelling fewer “food miles”?
  4. Are you pumped about supporting your local producers and community members?
  5. Do you appreciate knowing where your food comes from?
  6. Do you enjoy the social aspects of local food and the learning that is shared?
  7. All of the above.

For me, it’s “all of the above,” but if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, that sounds like a good enough reason to include some local yumminess in your lunches!

How can we pack local foods into our lunch bags? What we have available to us depends on many variables: where we live, our personal connections, our food storage equipment, and our skills and knowledge.

Here are a few ideas from my own kitchen in Terrace:

  • My favourite lunch is simply leftovers from dinner (I mean, if I’m going to cook a great meal, I better get a couple meals out of it, right?). At this time of year, we are working through the last of our local food supplies so dinner, and therefore lunch, might include Haida Gwaii deer, Remo Harvest potatoes (maybe garlic mashed potatoes?), and home canned beets (topped with no-so-local feta cheese and olive oil).
  • There are still a couple of squashes on my counter, and while their fate is not yet sealed, I suspect they will make an appearance in a future lunch in the form of a creamy squash soup or spiced squash muffins.
  • The cherries and berries in my freezer might be reincarnated into a fruit crisp that would make a nice mid-morning snack at work.
  • There’s still a wee bit of jarred salmon that might be nice to have on crackers – an easy snack or lunch to pack when I’m hastily scrambling to work.

Oh, dear! All this writing about food is making me hungry! Better go take a peek at what I’ve got in my lunch today! I hope there’s something local in there!

For more ideas and inspiration, consider checking out the following resources:

Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.


Challenge #4 winner!

Week 4 winner

Congrats to Neil Walton, who submitted this photo of his wife Regeena in the Week 4 September Healthy Living Challenge! Regeena caught this fish, her first freshwater fish, at Tacheeda Lake.

With the arrival of October, we’re sad to see our September Healthy Living Challenge come to an end. But we’ve had a ton of fantastic posts go live (and you can find them all here under the ‘healthy living challenge’ tag), and we’ve seen such a variety of great challenge entries come to us, from folks from all across the region who really care about their health. Thanks to everyone who followed the posts all month and took on the challenges – we hope you’ve gotten some good ideas on how to work towards living a healthier life!

Now, what you’ve been waiting for… the random winner for our fourth and final challenge (and the grand prize of a mini freezer) is Neil Walton, from Prince George, BC! In answer to the question of “how do you source your local food,” Neil said that he and his wife hunt, fish, visit the farmers’ market and shop at local stores. They have certainly caught a nice looking fish in the photo! Congratulations Neil!

We received so many great entries this week that I had a really hard time choosing a variety of honourable mentions, so here’s more than usual for you to enjoy:

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community 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 also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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)


Farmers’ markets: Home grown community love

farmers' market veggies

Do you visit your local farmers’ market?

One Saturday afternoon, I did something that I don’t normally do – I took some time to walk around my town of Fort Nelson. It’s amazing what you see when you move slower:  I noticed, for example, how crisp and beautiful the flowers on the street corners were! During my walk, I decided to venture into the Farmers’ Market – a place that I often overlooked when driving – and I discovered the fresh locally grown foods that were displayed everywhere.

A farmer there explained to me that locally grown foods taste different than food that has been trucked up from thousands of miles away. His lettuce was picked yesterday, whereas food trucked up to us may have been picked a week ago. We also talked about how locally grown foods builds community, supports your local economy, increases food security, and reduces the environmental impact from transportation. It seems there sure is a lot to love about farmers’ markets and local food!

Farmers’ Markets feature individual vendors, mainly farmers, who set up booths, tables or stands and sell their products to the public once or twice a week at a designated place like a park or parking lot. The markets often feature produce grown naturally or organically, meats that are raised humanely on pasture, eggs and poultry, and produce.

Thanks to an increased interest in healthier foods and food security, farmers’ markets in Canada have grown. New markets appear regularly, and existing markets are seeing renewed growth.

Benefits of shopping at your local farmers’ market

Consumers love them because they can buy top-quality farm-fresh products directly from the person who produced them. Produce found at farmers’ markets is renowned for being locally grown, very fresh and produced at a much higher quality, as it’s usually organically grown with no artificial hormones. Local, fresh food is more likely to foster health and prevent illness than is heavily processed foods.  Consumers can enjoy fresh, seasonally-grown food that was produced within a drivable distance from their homes.

Farmers love them because they’re fun and let them connect with consumers who love what they sell and appreciate their hard work. They’re also an important source of income, helping farmers keep on doing what they love to do. Almost all of the money that supports local farmers goes back to the farmer, especially since the food sold at farmers’ markets undergoes a much simpler process than that sold at supermarkets.

Communities love them because they bring people together and can turn once-deserted areas into hives of activity, attracting extra business for stores and restaurants nearby.

For more information or to find a local farmers’ market, check out the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets or contact your local environmental health officer.

[Editor’s note: Don’t forget to enter the Healthy Living Week 4 Challenge and tell us about how you source local food for your chance to win a great mini freezer!]

Michael Truong

About Michael Truong

Michael is an Environmental Health Officer at the Fort Nelson Health Unit, and he really enjoys his work. He has been living in northeast B.C. for almost a year and loves his community. During the winter season, he enjoys snowshoeing with his friends and in the summer, he loves the scenery of the northern Rockies.


Sharing the local harvest (and September Healthy Living Challenge #4)

Julie and her Good Food Box

Julie with her latest Good Food Box local veggie haul.

In a country where grocery store shelves are always well stocked with a variety of foods that travel thousands of kilometers from all around the world, it’s easy to lose track of where our food comes from and what it’s made of. We tend to fall into routine shopping and forget to scan the produce section for foods that are locally gown, in season and perhaps a different kind that we’ve never eaten before. For the last several years, I’ve participated in our local Good Food Box program, in order to expand my family’s food horizons and support our local food producers. On the third Wednesday of every month, for $15 paid in advance, I pick up two grocery bags filled with produce. Whenever possible, the produce is sourced from local farmers and food producers and consists of what is currently in season (although into the winter, as northern root cellars run low, the contents start to come from farther afield). It’s often organic and is always fresh and tasty.

Our Good Food Box program coordinator in Prince George, Jovanka Djordjevich, always includes a newsletter with a thought-provoking editorial piece about local food system sustainability and healthy food choices, a list of the products included in the order and where they were sourced, and recipes to help us use the less familiar items in the order (you’d be amazed at the variety of things that can be done with kale and cabbage!).

Good Food Box days are a monthly highlight in our house -and in my parents’ home too – as we share responsibility for pick-up and swap items based on our household needs and preferences.  I make soups and borscht to share, so all the cabbage comes to me; my mother operates a family daycare, so she may use extra carrots and apples as snacks for the children. Opening the bags is a bit like Christmas, because you don’t know what you’re getting in advance.

Planning meals to incorporate unexpected dill, bok choy, local mushrooms or fresh Okanagan grapes gives us a chance to stretch our cooking skills and be creative. I have added recipes into my repertoire that I never would have started cooking if not for the Good Food Box…and my children have a much broader and more adventurous palate for produce than I ever did growing up.

Most importantly, I feel like I’m a part of our local food system, supporting local farmers and helping our community to be more food secure. My $15 per month, wisely used by a team of cheerful and hard working volunteers, benefits my health and that of my family, but it also makes a contribution to the vitality, economic strength and sustainability of the wider community.

Eating fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables is part of a healthy lifestyle. Northern Health’s position on Healthy Eating includes evidence to show how initiatives like Good Food Box programs, community gardens and farmers markets contribute to the health of individuals, families and communities. That’s why Northern Health supports these kinds of programs through IMAGINE Grants and in-kind contributions. To learn more, visit our healthy communities web pages.

Now for your Week 4 Challenge! We want to know how you source your local, fresh food. This could mean a lot of things, so be creative! Do you grow it yourself and harvest in the late summer/fall? Do you visit the Farmer’s Markets every week to get your local veggies? Are you a flyfisher who cans fish to eat during the winter? There’s a myriad of ways to source your local food and we want to know how you do it and of course, we want to see a photo of this food! This is the fourth and final challenge for the grand prize – an excellent mini freezer – perfect for storing all your locally sourced food throughout the winter!

Good luck!

Julie Kerr

About Julie Kerr

Until October 2012, Julie Kerr was the director of population health at Northern Health. During her time with us, she was proud to support local healthy eating initiatives in her program area. Julie is now the VP, community, rural and mental health for Alberta Health Services. (Julie no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)