Gail Farnsworth makes no bones about it. A Community Food Mentor (CFM) for six years, a town councilor in the community of Nackawic and chair of the Wellness Committee, she emphatically states, “I have no interest in food. I’m more into providing a service for people. I’m not a foodie but I want to make sure people have food in the community.”
Nackawic was once a thriving, affluent community and had an economy that was driven by forestry and the pulp mill. The houses are still well kept and a giant axe sculpture looms in the park. A beautiful quilt appliquéd with various tree species that once grew in the area graces council chambers and speaks of the natural resource wealth that once existed there. But four years of mill closure brought diminished pensions and poverty. The mill is up and running again producing wood pulp for a rayon manufacturer in India, but Nackawic still hasn’t quite recovered. Forty-four percent of the residents in the village are retired and on limited income.
There were nine individuals in her CFM class taught by dieticians from the Western Valley Wellness Committee. They focused on healthier foods and cooking. They asked the group, “Where do you want to take your training in the community?” Eight of them are now active in food security. “Our group was very successful,” Gail explains.
Several programs were initiated as a result of the training including a bulk food buying club, a community garden, a monthly Seniors luncheon program, a monthly community breakfast put on in partnership with various community groups, a Junior Chef Program at the elementary school, Lunch and Learn, and Feed the Hawks, a free lunch program for elementary school children. A food bank was also recently started that includes a delivery service.
Soon to come is Food Fit, a program that will teach young families how to cook the food they receive in the food boxes. “We are going to deal with beans and lentils that are now so much of the Canada Food Guide,” Gail says and adds that taking advantage of the programs already offered is important.
“Anytime we have a program we offer food because people will come...
The food that we offer is always nutritious, but it’s a struggle to get people to eat that way. They want their donuts.” Progress has been steady, however, and they want to keep the momentum going.
“We need more trained volunteers,” Gail comments. “I see people who are eating differently because of our endeavours and there is more conversation around food.”
All of this activity around food is not just about feeding the body, however. Gail has observed that, “It’s also nourishment for the mind. People don’t realize how important socialization is.”
“Most ideas are small seeds that grow with support.” And there doesn’t seem to be any end to the ideas that Gail has for feeding and nurturing her community.