This week, members of the Food Action Committee were invited to take part in a great conversation about food security in Dartmouth. This was a really great opportunity to see the work that other organizations are doing in order both to offer support and also to learn about other initiatives that are happening in our community.
About a year and a half ago, a group of community organizations called the Dartmouth Community Network was formed to identify issues affecting health and wellness of Dartmouth Residents. Through community conversations, they learned that people living in Dartmouth were concerned with being able to access and afford healthy, nutritious food. As a result, the group decided to create a Food Security Inventory to better understand who in our communities are working around issues of food security, which they hope to post as a resource on the Nova Scotia Food Security Network website. The Food Action Committee was identified as one of these resources, and we were invited to a gathering that brought together some of the other groups on the list to meet each other and learn what’s going on around food in Dartmouth. We got to talk with members of organizations like the Dartmouth Family Centre, New Beginnings, Margaret’s House, Clean Nova Scotia, Christ Church, and the Community Health team, and share the work that we’re each doing to advance food security in our communities.
The Dartmouth Community Network has identified three stages to combat food insecurity:
1. Short Term Relief Strategies. These can include charitable food programs like soup kitchens, food banks, and food trading centres where people can drop food off as well as take things they may need. These are important places where hunger is immediately addressed, and different groups provide their own strengths to these initiatives. For example, Margaret’s House is well known for their meal programs, but other groups have less formal relief strategies, such as Christ Church donating extra produce from their community garden to Feed Nova Scotia.
2. Capacity-Building Strategies. These strategies include teaching food skills around cooking and gardening. Building food preparation skills empowers people to make the most of their food budget, and initiatives like Clean Nova Scotia’s community kitchens cooking classes send participants home with healthy, inexpensive meals that they can then share with their family. Some of these organizations have cooking programs that have their clients or participants create the meals that are served in their own soup kitchens. In this way, capacity is built within the community to help address some of the short term relief strategies. The Food Action Committee’s public and community food skills workshops also fall under this category.
3. System Change Strategies. It is also important that we work to advocate for system change through municipal, provincial and federal policy. This can be as simple as a family centre advocating for breastfeeding support and awareness, to working to support a national food policy strategy to encourage food security across our country. Some organizations were working on increasing security around housing for vulnerable populations, and coming up with innovative solutions with landlords across Dartmouth to create subsidized spots for residents with a mental illness living on a fixed income. Although these types of changes don’t directly deal with food, they certainly change a system whereby healthy food is completely unattainable for someone living on assistance.
This little blog post only scratches the surface of the wonderful work being done in our community. Here are a few links to a few of the wonderful organizations in Dartmouth and the work they do to increase food security: