Great Food Organisations We Love to Support: Nourish Nova Scotia

The Food Movement Profiles series supports and highlights 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 thrilled to interview Margo Riebe-Butt of Nourish Nova Scotia, a province-wide, non-profit organization that supports nourishment and food literacy programs in school communities.

Food Secure Canada (FSC): Tell us more about Nourish’s mission and history:

Margo Riebe-Butt: "Nourish Nova Scotia is a registered charity focused on nourishment and food literacy programs in school communities. Our goal is to support the nutritional well-being of children and youth and to build their food knowledge and skills so they can feed themselves well into a healthier future. As a grassroots organization, built by stakeholders in 2012, we support breakfast programs in over ~90% of Nova Scotia public schools, where collectively over 5 million breakfast meals were served last year. We also innovated a farm-to-school program called Nourish Your Roots, and are in the process of developing a province-wide Edible School Garden program."

FSC: We hear a lot about healthy and sustainable food nowadays. What is your definition of “good food”?

Margo: "Good food is whole food, real food, and local food where possible. In NS we want to rebuild a healthy eating culture and champion a ‘good food’ movement. To this end we developed a farm-to- school program called Nourish Your Roots that partners schools with farms for the purpose of fundraising. We innovated the program grounded in a principle of fair value to the farmer, and as an intentional fundraiser for the school—all proceeds raised are reinvested into healthy food programs or initiatives in the school. This program is a win-win for schools and farmers and contributes not only to healthy eating and food literacy, but to grow our local food economy and contribute to the overall social prosperity of NS."

FSC: How do you see food as a solution to the challenges that we face today?

Margo: This question makes me quite philosophical. If it were easy, I would invite the world over for dinner! (I like to believe that all the world’s problems could be solved over a good meal!) Really though, on a manageable scale I think of raising food literate children-focusing on children and youth in the school setting—where they can be fully immersed in a healthy food environment. In my ‘dream school’ all foods that are served and sold in schools are healthy; fundraising in school promotes healthy foods or non-food items; food is not used as a reward; classroom parties promote wholesome foods; and every school has an edible garden that is integrated into the curriculum and cooking skills programs…..need I go on? Food can be a solution, but first we need to identify the environment and audience with the most likelihood to be influenced.

FSC: What is innovative about Nourish’s approach to promote public engagement and a more sustainable food system?

Margo: Creativity (innovation) is one of our core values, and we live it each and every day. We employ an innovative ‘structure’ called engagement governance. The Nourish Engagement Governance Model builds on the principles of participation and collaboration. At Nourish, governance is a function and a process, and less a ‘structure’ so its functions need not be located solely within the board. This model encourages decision making to be redistributed and shared, resulting in joint ownership, engagement, empowerment and accountability with our volunteers, champions and staff. We take pride in the fact our programs are stakeholder led. It makes them more resilient and representative of the on the ground realities of the food system we are trying to effect. As a whole this ‘structure’ makes us stronger, more diverse and sustainable as a result.

FSC: How do you think we can best support a vibrant food culture?

Margo: At Nourish we work at both the organizational and systems level, but ultimately, it is an individual who make decisions about food each and every day. A wise person once told me, if you want to know what people value, look at their actions. As leaders, advocates and policymakers we need to be role models—sharing our vision for a vibrant food culture—one that supports local growers and producers, celebrates our rich food heritage and culture in an environmentally respectful way.

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

Margo: Nourish is a member of FSC and connected through our work with the Coalition for Healthy School Food -with a focus on advocating for a National Healthy School Food program. It is our hope that a National Food Policy will include directives to address the Coalition’s mission, which in turn will support our work here in Nova Scotia.

FSC: How can we get involved in Nourish?

Margo: A great place to start is to check out our website or go directly to our volunteer page to see what areas/activities are of most interest. We also put out a regular newsletter, you can sign up here to see what we’re up to. Like social media? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube @NourishNS.