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In the media 05/06/2024
TORONTO, May 6, 2024 /CNW/ - In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week (May 6-12), Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) is proud to highlight the Mind Your Food program. This initiative is designed to strengthen resilience and mental well-being among youth across the country.

Recent surveys underscore the urgency of addressing mental health among youth in Canada, with over 75% of young people asserting the need for more robust support systems. Exacerbated by the pandemic and inequitable access to resources, Canada is experiencing a youth mental health crisis.

It is estimated that mental illness affects approximately 1.2 million children and youth, with that number rising to 7.5 million by age 25 (about one in five Canadians). Healthy emotional and social development in early years lays the foundation for mental health and resilience throughout life.

Recognizing these challenges, CFCC developed the Mind Your Food program to address the critical intersection of food insecurity and mental health among youth.

"In the context of health promotion, we often hear a lot about risk factors but less about protective factors. Protective factors are the things we do, have or practice that cushion us from life's challenges," notes Meagan Dellavilla, Senior Program Specialist at CFCC. "Mind Your Food is designed around reinforcing key protective factors such as balanced eating, connection to cultural identity, and strengthened support networks. We know from research that these factors are critical for young people's mental health."

Mind Your Food reaches youth aged 13-19 from low-income, Indigenous, and newcomer communities. Youth in these communities are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and mental health challenges because of poverty, systemic racism, colonialism, and discrimination.

A Holistic Approach to Well-Being

Mind Your Food fosters teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership, integrating food skills with cultural and community connections. The program operates across seven diverse communities, and varies in duration, depending on community needs and preferences.

The activities youth engage in range from outdoor adventures like kayaking and wild food gathering to interactive/hands-on culinary sessions.

At Turnor Lake and Birch Narrows Community Food Centre in northern Saskatchewan, Mind Your Food took the form of a week-long hunting and camping trip. This allowed 22 youth, with guidance from Elders and knowledge keepers, to spend seven days tracking, fishing, hunting and learning to process and prepare food in traditional ways.

At the end of the week, one participant shared: "I love the fact that this camp had a positive effect on my soul spiritually - I felt pure, cleansed even, and I loved it. I feel good when I smudge so I was happy they had it here."

As well, time spent with elders was extremely important to the young people taking part. "We learned a couple of teachings. To me they were very valuable and I cherished all of them. I listened to the elders dearly to show my respect," noted a participant. "Hiy hiy (thank you) to the elders for sharing their knowledge with us. I will definitely come back."

Parents and caregivers of Mind Your Food participants notice significant impacts too. One caregiver remarked of her daughter, "With the skills she has learned, she's now able to help with confidence in the kitchen when we're preparing our meals. The training and experience she had with Mind Your Food makes us closer as a family as we are all loving to cook together."

Since its launch, Mind Your Food has demonstrated significant success:
  • Seven participating communities, including in Toronto, Eel Ground First Nation, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Vancouver, Lil'wat Nation and Turnor Lake.
  • More than 400 youth have completed the program, gaining vital knowledge and skills.
  • An impressive 97% of participants reported an increase in knowledge and skills, linking their learning to improved mental health.
  • 89% saw improvements in factors that support positive mental health, such as an increase in social connections.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, CFCC invites you to learn more about Mind Your Food and how it's making a difference in the lives of  youth in Canada. For more information about the program, please visit
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