New Brunswick

Eel Ground First Nation set to open community food centre

When you want to teach your community something, you start with the children, says Eel Ground Chief George Ginnish of the healthy food initiatives the community has been developing.

'We don't want to see anybody going hungry and that's at the core of this.'

Students plant and harvest a crop of potatoes from a community garden. (Facebook)

When you want to teach your community something, you start with the children, says Eel Ground Chief George Ginnish of the healthy food initiatives the community has been developing.

After eight years of work, those initiatives spearheaded by the Healthy Bodies, Minds and Spirits program will now be focused in a new community food centre that's set to open officially open on the Eel Ground First Nation Oct. 4.

The Natoaganeg Community Food Centre will officially open in Eel Ground Oct. 4 at 4 p.m. (Facebook)
Ginnish said it was early initiatives involving children that led to the creation of Natoaganeg Community Food Centre.

"We've had a relationship with Canadian Feed the Children and they've been assisting with our breakfast and lunch programs at our school for our K to grade eight students."

Ginnish said when they started talking a few years ago about creating something to help the 40 per cent of community members identified as being food insecure, they knew they had to start with the children.

"It's really easy to teach the kids because the kids would teach the parents far faster than the other way around."

New ideas embraced

Ginnish said the students embraced the new ideas implemented and were involved in menu planning, and growing fresh vegetables at school that they used to help prepare meals.

"We needed to show kids that food doesn't grow on a shelf in a grocery store. It's real, it's alive and the best stuff for you comes right out of the ground," he said.

Now those ideas will be available to more community members at the food centre. Ginnish said the programs will help the families that are in need.

"We don't want to see anybody going hungry and that's at the core of this."

Large idea in small centre

While community food centres are more commonly seen in larger cities, the First Nation wanted to see if it could work for its community.

Randy Patles, the community garden coordinator, said what makes it even more special is this community food centre will be able to serve wild meat and fish provided by hunters from Eel Ground.

A former group home has been renovated to serve the community as the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre. (Submitted/Randy Patles)
"We see this as an ongoing extension of our hunting and fishing program so we can have a central spot where we can store it and actually distribute it throughout the year," said Ginnish.

Those attending the grand opening can sample that with moose burgers, bass, and other dishes featuring ingredients from the community gardens.

Patles said his role will be to get community members involved with planting and caring for the garden.

Community involvement

"Our goal is to have people take ownership of a garden plot. The ultimate goal is to show people they can grow food for cheap and eat healthy for cheap," sais Patles.

The intent and focus of the centre is community sharing.

Natoaganeg Community Food Centre hopes to receive lots of community visitors including a chicken from a neighbouring property. (Facebook)

"When good things are supposed to happen, they happen," said Chad Duplessie, the project coordinator for the Healthy Bodies, Minds and Spirits program, of how fast things happened once the idea was brought to the community.

The centre will house the food bank, an elder cafe and a teaching and sharing kitchen.

Patles said there are plans to have local chefs come in and do demonstrations and provide cooking lessons.

Duplessie said the model of having a community food centre has been proven in larger areas and believes it will work to help those who need it in Eel Ground.

"We have every reason to believe we will have the intake and the uptake and what it takes to end food insecurity."

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