Youth food program sets sights on $15,000

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Ryan Dragon helps prepare a shared meal at the Lights On program in Diamond Jenness Secondary School's new kitchen facilities. The Hay River Community Youth Centre hopes to partner with Lights On to run the For the Love of Food hands-on kitchen session one night a week.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Ryan Dragon helps prepare a shared meal at the Lights On program in Diamond Jenness Secondary School’s new kitchen facilities. The Hay River Community Youth Centre hopes to partner with Lights On to run the For the Love of Food hands-on kitchen session one night a week.

A program intended to teach youth about nutritious food and cooking is vying for $15,000 through a new community fund program.

The Hay River Community Youth Centre (HRCYC) is trying to launch For the Love of Food, a twice-a-week program which would get 20 to 25 youths in the kitchen and learning about food.

We asked (the youth) what they’d like to do because they do have a lot of input, and consistently, especially through winter because it’s so cold out, they want to cook, they want to bake,” said Alice Coates, a volunteer with the youth centre. “There’s already so much emphasis on baking – whether it is for holidays or events or fundraising – we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we really found a decent amount of money to put toward something that is a little broader? That can actually get youth through adult life, because you can’t eat cake all the time.’”

For the Love of Food would spend one day per week focused on an activity to teach youth about food-related topics, such as how to read nutrition labels, how to shop within a budget, how to make a diabetes-friendly meal, or how sugar, caffeine, and alcohol affect the human body, Coates said.

A second night of the week would be used to get the youth in a kitchen and cooking a meal.

The $15,000 the centre hopes to get from the Field Law Community Fund Program would be used to buy ingredients for the meal and snacks for the evening spent outside of the kitchen, Coates said.

This is the first year Field Law is running its Community Fund Program, which provides new or well-established community projects with the opportunity to net up to $15,000 in the NWT out of the office’s Yellowknife base or $30,000 from its Edmonton and Calgary bases. Any number of projects may receive funding ranging from $1,000 to the maximum funding allocated for the project’s region.

The funding is decided by a combination of votes made by visitors to the Field Law Community Fund Program website and a panel of Field Law judges.

Coates said an interest in food isn’t unique to the Hay River Community Youth Centre.

Everything that we do, we want it to be a community project,” she said. “We’re not just a little island operating.”

Coates noted the program would likely pair up with Lights On, another youth program.

Lights On opens the gymnasium at Diamond Jenness Secondary School after school hours for youth to use the facilities and join in activities. It also has access to the school’s relatively new home economics kitchen facilities and would host the half of the program spent in the kitchen with the centre providing the instruction, menu and ingredients.

Hay River Commons coincidently is developing a community kitchen program, where community members could meet once per week, make a meal, and share it among those who attend.

Food is something very social,” said Francois Lamy, a co-founder of the Hay River Commons market co-operative. “It’s going to be useful to help people who can be a little bit isolated, single mothers or old people who live by themselves or for all sorts of reasons end up being pretty isolated. So it has that use. It has many targets and goals. I find it hard to cook a big meal when there’s nobody to eat it. I think cooking in a group can be a lot of fun.”

Both the Commons and the youth centre have considered the possibility of working together in the future.

Eating is a social thing as much as it is a necessary thing,” said Coates. “People can get kind of isolated and it’s so easy in those situations to make poor choices about food because they’re not giving it to anybody else. If you share it, you care about it and you show you can care about somebody else through preparing a beautiful meal. I think in a roundabout way we’re hoping that will come through, the idea that by nourishing your own body you also learn the skills to nourish somebody else, to nurture.”

Another way of connecting the youth to the community through the program will be by inviting community members, such as Dene elders, to speak to the youth about traditions around food and teach them how to make things, Coates added. “There are a lot of people in the community who know a lot about cooking and from different cultural perspectives, so we’re hoping to get a good range of perspectives on what is good to eat.”

She said she hopes students will then be able to share their new skills at community potlucks and other events.

— Lyndsay Herman