“If I hadn’t come here, I would be a very sick, unhealthy person. This is a really good support centre. It's a means of support, and people do need that, especially if they're sick. It promotes that kind of community: health, food.”
A place to build skills and find support
When Ann immigrated with her family to Winnipeg from the Philippines in 2014, she found it challenging to adjust. The NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre opened its doors not long after they arrived, and when Ann learned the centre was looking for volunteers, she decided to apply. In her role, she was able to gain relevant job skills and experience in her new community, while getting the opportunity to meet people, learn about the many community services available to her family, and enjoy really good food. “Every time I come here for a meal, it’s the healthiest meal I’ve ever had, every time,” Ann says.
A community centre built around good food
The community meals Ann enjoys are just the tip of the iceberg at NorWest Co-op CFC. Their food skills programs -- from the Filipino Family Cooking program to the Make and Take Community Kitchen to the Diabetes Cooking Group -- are designed to meet community needs and make it easier for people to access healthy food. 70% of participants have made healthy changes to their diets, and 66% say programs have contributed to improvements in their physical health.
There's plenty of chances for kids to build healthy food skills and behaviours at NorWest Co-op -- whether it's the After-School Bike Blender Smoothie Drop-in, where they get to pedal their way to a nutritious, delicious treat, or the Kids' Cooking and Gardening program, where they learn how to chop, stir, plant, and harvest. But in addition to food access and skills, people are finding social support and a community at the CFC -- 97% of participants have made a new friend, and 79% of those who used the Advocacy Office say their visit helped them resolve an issue. Amazing the difference you can make when you start with good food and dignified spaces.
An innovative partnership
Established in 2015, NorWest Co-op CFC was the first Community Food Centre to open in western Canada. It was developed as a partnership between NorWest Co-op Community Health Centre and Community Food Centres Canada -- the first of its kind.
The NorWest Co-op CFC is located in the neighbourhood of Inkster, next to the largest social housing complex in Manitoba. Inkster is a community with large Filipino, First Nations, and senior populations. The neighbourhood has high rates of poverty, food insecurity and unemployment. The Community Health Centre saw a need for healthy food programming in Inkster and wanted to be able to deliver.
By developing a Community Food Centre, they pioneered a unique approach that allows health care providers such as nurses and dietitians to collaborate with the community to better meet their needs. From having a public health nurse at the CFC's healthy baby group, to getting a mobile diabetes screening program on-site during community kitchen sessions, the Community Health Centre/Community Food Centre partnership pairs up programs to reach new people and provide them with services in a comfortable, less clinical setting that facilitates relationship-building and trust.