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It Takes a Community to Feed a Community (Dr. Daria Love)

Updated: Sep 22


Everdale is a non-profit charitable community teaching farm in Hillsburgh, Ontario. With over 20,000 people in Guelph and Wellington County facing food insecurity, Everdale has partnered with East Wellington Community Services, The Seed and food banks in the area to develop the Good Food Project.


Addressing Community Food Insecurity


As a working farm, Everdale produces fresh, seasonal foods that are part of healthy food boxes distributed within the broader community to those in need. In addition, Everdale has made a commitment to addressing and ending food insecurity in the community through the following means:

  • Training programs to educate sustainable farming practices through their Sustainable Farming Certificate Program and Farm Planner course.

  • Partnering with health agencies to make good food part of the shared health care system, beginning with Guelph Community Health Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

  • Offering restorative on-farm experiences, to promote mental and physical health.

  • Teaching youth the life-long food skills they need to promote health and well-being. Everdale’s Farm Camp programs have supported more than 40,000 young people to grow, prepare and share good food.

Building the Food-Health Connection with Community Supported Agriculture


Everdale has a long history of community service and outreach. It has been active in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), building closer farm to table relationships between the consumers, farmers and farming practices.


CSAs were developed to support greater economic viability for farmers through increased consumer awareness and appreciation for farmland, growing practices, and the seasonal limitations of regional food production. The development of personal relationships between growers and consumers creates a broader understanding of the importance of the connection between healthy food and good health.


Everdale is a certified organic farm. While not all CSAs are, the majority do focus on biodynamic or farming practices such as crop diversity, rotation and alternative methods of pest control that limit the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.


Better knowledge of informed farming practices is integral to understanding the true costs of food production including fair compensation for farm workers, and the development of a social justice framework for food distribution with sharing of harvest successes and failures.


Reducing Barriers with Community Partnerships


For a number of years, Everdale brought its Harvest Share program to Toronto. Similar to many food box programs, ‘shares’ were purchased prior to the start of the season, which in turn supported the financial needs and staff salaries to begin the farm growing season.

During the season, unclaimed and surplus foods were donated to area food banks. However, with a growing awareness of the relationship of food insecurity to poor health, increased stress and its predominance in communities made vulnerable, Everdale shifted its focus to growing and providing food for community projects that focused on addressing food security as a fundamental step towards building healthy communities.


They partnered with The Seed, a not-for-profit food initiative at the Guelph Community Health Centre. Gavin Dandy is both the Directing Coordinator with The Seed as well as Executive Director and Founder of Everdale. The Seed and Everdale have brought their shared skills and expertise to supporting the Guelph Community Health Centre’s mission and vision to reduce the inequities in health care and build a community without barriers to health and well-being.


Taking Action


Good health begins with healthy food. But access to healthy food is not always available, particularly to low income individuals and families, and those made vulnerable through racism, social inequity and circumstance. Food deserts are not unusual in poor communities. While food may be available, much of it is not healthy or affordable. Good quality fresh food is restricted or not available.


COVID-19, with the subsequent lockdown and alterations of the lifestyles most Canadians have come to enjoy, has put a spotlight on the glaring needs and inequities that exist around us. The efforts of such organizations as Everdale and The Seed have intensified as the needs and vulnerabilities of greater numbers of people are increasing. With Naturopathic Doctors returning to their practices, perhaps one of our questions should be ‘How can we help to address and eradicate food insecurity in our communities?’


Want to Engage?


1. Consider one of the many ways to participate in Everdale's important work:

  • Make a donation to the Good Food Project.

  • Be a part of Everdale’s Harvest Share, for pick up at the farm.

  • Take a self-guided tour of Everdale Farm. No reservations required, just enjoy!

  • Look for Carrot Stock, Everdale’s annual on-farm festival in support of the Good Food Project.

  • Register a child you love for Everdale’s Farm Camp when available again.

  • Schedule your office team for a Team Building Day at Everdale when available again. Or promote this initiative to other groups with whom you are involved.

2. Promote your local food justice organizations:


Not close to Everdale or Guelph? Most communities have organizations that are working towards providing programs that promote food security and better access to healthy food. Find those in your area and promote their programs and food boxes to your friends, family and patients.


3. Support farmer's markets:


As COVID restrictions are easing, local farmer’s markets are opening to shoppers. Many farms have already addressed these changing social habits by increasing their on-line presence and ordering, as well as farm pick-up. Many of these same farms support local food banks and farming programs. These important programs warrant support from those who can, for those who can’t.


4. Share Your Knowledge, Spread the Word:


Put a poster or handouts in your office, a posting on your website or social media. Build community through participation in the events and fundraising endeavors of your local organizations and farm programs addressing food insecurity. Share your knowledge and experience of healthy food as the foundation of health to those who are unable to afford the direct services of a Naturopathic Doctor by liaising with the organizations and farms that are bringing their skills and expertise to addressing the causes and needs for those food insecure. Volunteer and bring your enthusiasm and energy to those who need us most.


It takes a community to feed a community. Are you interested in bringing our community of Naturopathic Doctors to the support of organizations such as Everdale and The Good Food Project, and work towards the ending of food insecurity? Get in touch (nestnds@gmail.com) to get involved!


 
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