“I think this is very good. People coming together and helping each other. This is the first community I've ever had.”
A place where people can change their lives and their communities
When Jessica first heard about the Dartmouth Family Centre, she had four children under the age of four and was struggling with anxiety. She felt alone and needed someone to talk to. “The family centre was so welcoming,” she recalls. “They watched my kids while I talked to a social worker and from that day forward I just kept on going.”
Jessica and her kids became regulars at the family centre’s programs, and when the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre opened in 2015, Jessica was invited to participate in the Community Action Training program. She spent 11 weeks training to become a peer advocate, completing group and individual work to build leadership skills, learn how to manage conflict and become a knowledgeable source of information about services and resources in the community. Now Jessica volunteers at the Community Food Centre as a Peer Advocate twice a week, sharing information and resources with her neighbours. And in September 2017, she enrolled in a social services program at Nova Scotia Community College. “I have never been more confident in my life and I want to make sure my kids have that too. I’m so proud to say that I have a goal and, for the first time in my life, I feel I can reach it.”
A community centre built around good food
The Community Action Training is just one kind of program Dartmouth North CFC offers. Their food access programs, including the Community Lunch, Family Supper, and Good Food Market, help people living on low incomes access healthy food. They run cooking programs for people of all ages -- from Early Learners to Young Cooks to the Thursday Night Community Kitchen -- that help community members build food skills and knowledge while getting to know their neighbours. And from spring to the fall harvest, the community comes together to grow veggies on their impressive 20,000 square-foot community farm. The CFC has fostered a strong sense of belonging among community members, as well as a desire to contribute -- more than half of all participants also volunteer there. It all adds up to a healthier, more connected community -- since coming to programs, 63% of participants have noticed positive changes in their physical health, 67% have experienced improvements in their mental health, and 93% have made a new friend.
The first Community Food Centre in the east
The Dartmouth North CFC is located in North Dartmouth, an under-served and high-needs neighbourhood with a lack of community gathering spaces. The area is home to significant senior and immigrant populations: 13.5% of the population is aged 65, and many live alone or on a fixed income; 31% of households are single-parent families; and immigrants make up 6.4% of the population, a number that is expected to grow in coming years.
Established in 2015, Dartmouth North Community Food Centre is a partnership between the Dartmouth Family Centre and Community Food Centres Canada. The Dartmouth Family Centre has served the Dartmouth North community for years, providing services that promote the healthy development of individuals, families, and communities. In building a Community Food Centre, they've expanded on this work by bringing people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food for all.