Great Food Organizations We Love to Support: Food First NL

Interview conducted by Melanie Klein - development practitioner and environmentalist who is passionate about sustainable food systems.

With the Food Movement Profiles series, we support and highlight the work of Food Secure Canada members across the country. Our amazing members work daily to strengthen the food movement and create more just, healthy and sustainable food systems. As a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals, we are working together to advance food security and food sovereignty.

Today we are pleased to interview Kristie Jameson, Food First NL Executive Director, based in St. John's (Newfoundland and Labrador). Below, we discuss their great work, local food, food policy and their participation in Resetting the Table, the next FSC National Assembly.

Food Secure Canada (FSC): Tell us about Food First NL mission and history.

Kristie: Food First NL is a provincial non-profit organization and our mission is to actively promote comprehensive and community-based solutions to improve access to healthy food for everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador.

FSC: We hear a lot about healthy and sustainable food nowadays. What’s Food First NL’s definition of “good food”?

Kristie: In Newfoundland and Labrador there is such a deep rooted connection to food from the land and the sea. When we think about good food here, we’re talking about healthy good fresh food from the store but we’re also talking very much about foods deeply ingrained in the culture of this place that vary across the region, available from the land and the sea. When we talk about access to healthy food, we’re talking about wild food, moose, caribou, seal, as well as berries.

FSC: Can you describe how Food First NL helps to build the food movement?

Kristie: As a provincial organization, we do a lot of work with community-based groups in the province– we work with community centres, municipalities, family resource centres, and in some cases communities at large in identifying major food challenges,barriers, local strengths and assets in order to support those communities in developing and implementing programs. Organizations, communities, and individuals can engage in programs which encourage more dialogue and action in food and enriches the food movement. We also raise public awareness and facilitate dialogue on food issues to enhance the level of public discourse both in Newfoundland and Labrador and  nationally.

FSC: How can we get involved with Food First NL?

Kristie: A great first way to get involved is to sign up for our monthly email newsletter, simply scroll to the bottom to sign up at:

Food First NL also helps facilitate the connection between people and local organizations. We always encourage people in Newfoundland and Labrador to get engaged with the local organizations that are working on the ground with food programs in their communities. The newsletter provides a  monthly update on everything that's happening here in the province around food, including efforts by others in our network across the province.

FSC: Food First NL is an organizational member of Food Secure Canada. We work together for deep and lasting change in our food system. How does Food First NL see national food policy? Will it help you achieve your mission?

Kristie: A lot of the work that we do focuses on encouraging and supporting program and policy development that will encourage a healthy and sustainable food system. Our work seeks to help overcome some of the barriers that we face in this province in terms of access to food, so our focus is mostly at the municipal and provincial levels.

As a result, we haven’t really developed any sort of clear goals for a national food policy but what we would like to see, very broadly speaking, is something at a national level that  supports the strengthening and enabling of a regional, localized food system that encourages better access to good, healthy food.

FSC: What events and/or sessions Food First NL organizing as part of the FSC National Assembly in October and what do you hope to achieve?

Kristie: One of the big challenges that we face in this province is that we have many small communities spread out over an incredibly large land mass which means that we have a lot of rural communities that actually don't sustain a full grocery store and are dependent on other neighboring communities to purchase food from corner stores. So we started to work in the province in adapting the healthy corner stores model which seems to be becoming more popular throughout North America.

We’re hosting a panel for an Assembly session that's going to be sharing learnings of healthy corner stores in rural NL, Toronto and some research from Waterloo and efforts that have been undertaken in Manitoba as well. The panel will share experiences from these very different contexts and inspire  some other communities to start working in the food retail environment as we haven’t seen too many organizations really taking this on.

The other session we've applied for is to present on the really exciting, inspiring work we’ve been leading  in Northern Labrador in an Inuit region called the Nunatsiavut on food assessment. You can check out our website where we have 18 stories from the three communities we’ve been working with.

Food First NL will be part of Resetting the Table, Food Secure Canada’s 9th Assembly (Toronto - October 13-16, 2016).