Food creates community

Gathering Around the Table

June 27, 2018 | Viewpoints | Volume 22 Issue 14
Barb Draper |
Betty Ann Martin and Kate Van, the foods skills coordinator at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford, Ont., prepare fresh local asparagus. (Photo courtesy of Betty Ann Martin)

Cooking for one or two people can be a challenge, but Betty Ann Martin found that taking Food Fit courses at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford, Ont., expanded her food repertoire. She learned that roasted vegetables are delicious and that sweet potatoes are very versatile—and they don’t need added sugar.

“To make sweet potato fries, you don’t need to peel them, just cut them up and sprinkle on some olive oil and maybe some cinnamon or chili powder, and put them in the oven. They are really delicious,” she declares. She also learned to make mashed sweet potatoes with a bit of olive oil, green onion and plain yogurt.

These food courses, offered to anyone in the community, taught her how to be a “sugar detective,” using tips on reading labels to find hidden sugars. The group was taught to avoid using processed foods, as they have poor nutritional benefit and are often high in salt, sugar and fat. The goal is to use whole foods to create a healthy plate at every meal.

Martin also appreciated the variety of breakfast solutions, such as using leftover vegetables in breakfast burritos or in spinach frittata. Spinach can also be hidden in fruit smoothies, and whole-grain breads can be topped with salsa, pesto spread and cheeses. Breakfast should be interesting, not boring!

“The Local Community Food Centre draws people together, for sure,” says Martin. As well as the food courses, she has attended the seniors lunch for the past four or five years. Some weeks she comes early to have her blood pressure checked, and most weeks she participates in the hour-long exercise program before lunch. She also enjoys the after-lunch speaker, who talks about services available in the community.

The Local Community Food Centre began in 2012 as a pilot program of Community Food Centre Canada. The “Local,” as it is sometimes referred to, brings together a wide variety of health-related programs centred on accessing, preparing and eating healthy food. As well as the seniors lunch, the food centre in Stratford offers a community meal on Mondays, and breakfast with yoga on Thursdays. Twice a week there is a market at which fresh local foods are available for a reasonable price.

“Some things at the market are priced the same as at the store,” says Martin, “but you can buy small quantities—one carrot or part of a cabbage—for people who live alone.” Sometimes produce or eggs are donated from farms that have excess.

The food centre also has a community garden program and a wide variety of cooking classes, some specifically for children and youth. In the summer, the children are invited to make custom pizzas that are baked in an outdoor, wood-fired oven.

Although the Local Community Food Centre is not related to a church, Martin appreciates the way in which it brings people together around food. She has learned much about healthy eating and about the community in which she lives.

Betty-Ann learned gained new ideas for healthy menus through her involvement with the Local Community Food Centre. Here's an example of a healthy breakfast frittata:


Betty Ann Martin and Kate Van, the foods skills coordinator at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford, Ont., prepare fresh local asparagus. (Photo courtesy of Betty Ann Martin)

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