New community food centre touted as first of its kind in the North
- Tiffany Head | October 24, 2018
The dream to have a food centre in their northern Saskatchewan community has become a reality. Rebecca Sylvestre and Hélène Hébert along with their board of directors created a company started a non-profit organization called Turnor Lake & Birch Narrows Community Food Centre Inc., for their community and surrounding areas.
“It is the very first community food centre in Saskatchewan,” said Program manager and Volunteer secretary of the board Sylvestre. “Our programs are about healthy living and teaching cultures.”
Hébert said their partners have told them they have never seen a project like this before and was deemed to be one of a kind in the north.
“They are watching very closely, with great interest,” said Hébert.
People from other communities approached the duo inquiring how they could get their own food centres started in their communities.
It started off as two ladies who didn’t know anything about construction and they had started to renovate an existing building they have been renting to expand and add a new kitchen with the local people from the community. They were told to halt construction because we did not have the license or the insurance to build. Afterwards, they ended up hiring an Indigenous company from Alberta called Kehew Construction Ltd. to complete the project.
Hébert was honoured when asked to join the board of directors and become their treasurer as she has much of the same goals as Sylvestre.
“I poured myself into the project, everything we did was working and we created a company,” said Hébert.
Sylvestre, Hébert and the other volunteer board of directors run these programs and have the determination to make a change in the community and the lives of the people.
“It’s the peoples faces, the gratitude on their faces, their smiles and the big hugs they give,” said Sylvestre on what motivates them to keep moving forward with the project and programs.
Hébert and Sylvestre did a lot of research and searching for funding and grants and even had written and sent proposals which succeeded them in getting the funds.
While they wait for the building to be completely renovated, they have approved funding for 11 specific programs and are in the process of applying for new grants and seeing partners to have more programs.
Hébert stated they liked what they read from their proposals and were given $25,000 to start research. From there, Canadian Feed the Children and Community Food Centres Canada contributed funds to run programs.
Rita Morin, Little Dreams daycare director, said the Food Centre would be a great place to take the children from her daycare to participate and socialize. She said she looks forward to volunteer and help out once the building is completed.
“It will be a place where people will help each other, work together and feel welcome, young and old,” said Morin.
Sylvestre and Hébert stated they have an open-door policy and would never turn anyone away. They started the programs to teach families to learn how to prepare and cook healthy meals for themselves and their families. There were challenges they had to face and one of those challenges was the high cost of food.
“We are different than a food bank. Food banks distribute food, we teach families how to prepare food in healthier and affordable ways,” said Hébert. “We have the same needs as everyone in Canada. Those needs don’t go away because we live in the North.”
Hébert hopes to start a Micro-farm in the community where they can invest in growing their own food. The business partners have further goals of what they want to see in the future of their company.
“We want the project to be self-sustained in the future where we do not solely rely on grants,” she said. “The building sits on ten acres of land and we have hopes of building a play structure, splash park, skate park and a micro-farm in the future.”
Although the building is not yet completely renovated they had a community feast with some of their partners, Canadian Feed the Children, Community Food Centres Canada, CrossRoads, True North Aid, MLTC Health and Social Services, and KidsFirst North to celebrate the success of the programs and soon to be open food centre.