Latest updates 06/24/2022 As we noted in our last blog, our Mind Your Food program is expanding to more communities following a successful pilot phase with three of our Community Food Centre partners. Recently, we spoke with staff who led Mind Your Food in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Eel Ground First Nation, New Brunswick. We asked about their experience implementing the program and what it’s meant for the young people who’ve taken part. Here’s a window into the program, and the impact it’s already having across the country. Learning beyond the kitchen at NorWest Co-op CFC (Winnipeg) At NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre in Winnipeg, program facilitator Camille looks for opportunities to get outside on the land with the youth whenever possible. One week, they went sage picking with two community Elders. The Elders showed the youth how to pick sage so that the root stays intact and future generations can benefit from the plant. Youth also learned about the best time of year to pick sage, how much to pick at once, and the significance of offering tobacco. “It was a very grounding workshop,” recalls Camille. “Not all the youth in the program identify as Indigenous, but it didn’t matter. They all came and learned how to respect the land, how to have a deeper connection and awareness of their surroundings.” New flavours and new experiences at Harmony CFC (Toronto) Kathleen, Mind Your Food Facilitator at Harmony Community Food Centre in Toronto, looks for ways to introduce youth to new ideas, experiences, and people within their community. During a fruit pick with a local organization, youth learned how to properly harvest apples. They got to take part of their haul home and donated the rest back to their community. “It’s really important for youth to be aware of work that’s being done all around them by regular people, their peers, people they can relate to,” says Kathleen. “It’s great to see them inspired to volunteer, or learn about a new concept like gardening as a form of activism, and pursue that in their own way.” Connecting to cultural traditions at Natoaganeg CFC (New Brunswick) At Natoaganeg Community Food Centre on Eel Ground First Nation, New Brunswick, program facilitator Shalyn works to incorporate different elements of Mi’kmaq culture – from cooking with traditional foods to smudging to quillwork to kayaking. A lot of the youth in the program attend school off-reserve and don’t have many opportunities to learn about Mi’kmaq culture. Their experiences in Mind Your Food help them build a stronger understanding of and connection to their heritage and traditions. “I’ve noticed that whenever we do cultural activities, it’s as if the youth are jumping into their souls – connecting with each other over shared traumas they’ve experienced in their lives,” Shalyn shares. “One week, the youth made medicine pouches, and they started talking about things going on at home or at school – they opened up to each other. It was amazing. They know it’s a safe space.” We look forward to building on the success of Mind Your Food thus far, and growing the program in collaboration with partners and youth participants across the country! Mind Your Food is funded primarily through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund (MHP-IF), which provides national funding to support the delivery of innovative, community-based programs in mental health promotion.