A community centre in Dartmouth is planting roots while bringing people together to support food security and healthy eating.
The Dartmouth North Community Food Centre is a non-profit organization that opened its doors in 2015. Their goal is to increase access to healthy food for low-income individuals in Dartmouth North by promoting healthy food choices and reaching out to the community to better understand their needs.
Deborah Dickey is the manager at the food centre and says the community has really come together to teach and help each other live a healthier lifestyle.
“We do a whole variety of programs. A lot of them have to do with creating better access to good food in Dartmouth North. Access is definitely an issue for a lot of people for a whole variety of reasons, so we try to bring lots of good food into the community and open our doors and allow people to take part in that,” says Dickey.
The centre offers free breakfast and lunch to the community Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, and also hosts interactive cooking classes for individuals of all ages. There are also cooking classes just for men.
The Dartmouth North Community Centre offers other activities throughout the week like yoga, a walking group, and with spring around the corner, the community garden will soon be operational.
Cathy Spike lives in the area and has gained valuable skills attending the programs.
“I’ve learned how to cook proper food, eat healthy, eat more fruits and vegetables, met new people (and) I have a better circle of friends,” says Spike.
Cathy has been so impressed with the centre that she decided to become a volunteer.
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Another resident, Karl Smith, moved to Dartmouth alone and says he was stuck in a rut without knowing what resources were available to him to go back to school. Now Smith is back on track, and he says centre has been a key factor.
“They opened up their programs to me. They told me that they have people to help me with that, so I’ve been coming here every Wednesday. I have a little meeting and they have a co-ordinator who tells me what to do next. They tell me where to go, they give me bus tickets to where I need to go, so yeah it’s great,” Smith said.
The programs are centred around food but expand outwards from that, promoting all around healthy living. The Urban Farm coordinator Rob Macneish, hosts the men’s cooking class, among other things and says that this is his dream job.
“Everything that we do is free, so making it as accessible as you can and in a place like this it’s really important. Just from the amount of people that are here right now or anyone that you talk to it’s been 100 per cent a good thing.”
There is a low cost food market held every Friday at the community centre where residents are welcome to come in and purchase fresh food. Dartmouth North Community Food Centre also encourages volunteers and currently have over 150 and counting, mostly from Dartmouth North.