Winnipeg food centre’s healthy meals aim to improve quality of life
Marsha Barber has learned to love healthy meals thanks to a unique community food centre in Winnipeg.
The single mom of three has noticed her food preferences change after eating at NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre (CFC) for more than a year.
“I don’t eat out as much or go to fast-food restaurants because I don’t like the taste anymore,” Barber said, adding her energy level has also improved.
“I’ve gotten up to do more with my girls, we go swimming a lot more … we started going camping more.”
NorWest CFC is a welcoming space where people come together to share a meal, join a cooking group, grow a garden, and to learn about healthy eating and issues in the community. It increases access to healthy food by bringing people together to advocate for healthy food, for everyone.
WATCH: How a unique food centre has impacted one Winnipeg family
Winnipeg’s CFC was set up in Inkster East because of poverty and other challenges people face in the area, including shorter life expectancy.
Barber has lived in the Inkster community for six years and said the food centre helps her feel like she’s part of something again. She volunteers every week as a server and assists with the vegetable market.
“I’m not always sitting at home and dealing with kids with disabilities,” Barber said. “I’m not working at the moment and with being a single parent I can get out and be with adults … help other people, serve other people.”
Finding comfort in company, Barber said talking to others on a regular basis has helped her mental health.
“It has helped me a little bit with my anxiety,” she said. “I’m learning to live with it and kind of deal with it.”
“I go there and I learn to be around more people and everybody there, all the staff are so open and very nice, talkative, they’re not rude, so it’s easier to go there.”
At home, she follows a book of recipes from the food centre that feature healthy alternatives such as lentil pasta sauce, spring roll wraps, bean dip, tuna salad and more. Barber also learned to start a garden in her backyard to grow fresh produce that she never thought she would eat or try.
NorWest CFC is marking three years in Winnipeg, serving more than 50,000 meals in that time. CFC is a project of NorWest Community Health Centre, operated in partnership with Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) working toward a healthy and fair food system across the country. CFCC provides most of the funding for the centre.
In 2016, NorWest CFC in Winnipeg served nearly 12,000 healthy meals and about 11,500 pounds of affordable food at the centre’s fruit and vegetable market. Most of the meals served involve vegetables, beans and legumes.
PHOTO GALLERY: A look at Norwest Co-op Community Food Centre’s garden
“We have about 50 volunteers a week who come and help the chef, as chef assistants. They come and greeter servers, welcoming new people and clearing, serving the table,” NorWest CFC director Lila Knox said.
Knox said this food centre model is different than some food banks because it’s smaller and “we probably know the names of everybody who comes in here, they know all of our names, it’s more of a community centre feel.”
“Every year we do a survey of the adults who come and our recent results show that probably three out of four participants here have a long-term or chronic health disease that is diet related,” Knox said, noting diabetes and hypertension are common in the community.
“Eighty-five per cent of those people say by being connected to us in the community they’ve had help with both their mental and physical health … so just having access to that good food has helped,” she said.
Barber encourages Winnipeggers to come by the food centre at 61 Tyndall Ave. and share a healthy meal with the community.
“It’s almost like a big huge family kind of thing there,” she said. “I feel a lot better about myself eating healthier.”
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