Changing eating habits, one meal at a time

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Supporting Island families -

Christina Follett wants to make healthy diets more attainable for some of Prince Edward Island’s most vulnerable residents.

She recently launched a Healthy Families Community Kitchen program at the Native Council of Prince Edward Island’s office in Charlottetown. It’s meant to help improve the challenge of food security, the ability for individuals or communities to reliably and sustainably access nutritious food.

“We know from statistics that 7.7 per cent of people live with food insecurity, and that number goes up in some communities,” said Follett, the native council’s Aboriginal health and family wellness coordinator. “It isn’t because we don’t have enough food. It’s a question of availability and affordability of food.

“We’re trying to show people that they can make realistic choices that will improve their diets and the diets of their families.”

The multi-week program aims to work with people who self-identify as members of the province’s Aboriginal community and provide them with education around nutrition, food safety, and food preparation. Follett said the Aboriginal community as a whole has been identified as being at higher risk of food insecurity, with higher rates of diet-linked health issues including diabetes.

“There are other risk factors that contribute to food insecurity – income, isolation, lack of transportation and food literacy,” she says. “Our education program won’t get rid of those challenges, but we can give people some skills and information they can use to improve their own nutrition and that of their families.”

The program is one of 17 community food security and food education projects jointly supported by the provincial departments of Agriculture and Fisheries, Health and Wellness, and Education, Early Learning and Culture. The province has put $100,000 toward community-led projects across the Island.'

“Leaders of these projects, like Christina, are empowering our Island communities,” Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Robert Henderson said. “Food security and education is a top priority for our department and we are very pleased to support these projects and work collaboratively to improve food education and security in our province."

Follett put her share of the funding into buying food and supplies for the program, which helps educate people about what constitutes a healthy diet. It is also about how to safely source and prepare food that is both nutritious and culturally appropriate.

“It’s basically a day-long session for me,” she said. “We have a learning session and then we are all in the kitchen together cooking – showing people that they can do this – and helping them get skills they can apply at home.

“At the end of the day," she said, "we have a meal together, and everyone gets some food to take home.”

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