Food As Medicine Notes

On September 8th, 2017, approximately 80 residents of Winnipeg’s inner city came together in a special event featuring the Bell Tower Family, the National Diabetes Association and researchers from the University of Manitoba to discuss FOOD AS MEDICINE. The conversation was highlighted by our usual Food Not Bombs vegetable soup (veggies donated by Food Fare) and some delicious Bannock Pizza from Neechi Commons. The discussion asked community members to identify ways we could use food to improve our health, how to improve services and costs so that all members of our community could access healthy and culturally relevant food.

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Find below a summary of our conversations grouped into the following 7 areas:

FOOD BANKS

  • Easy access food banks for people with a disability, wheelchair or walker
  • More emergency food available in the community
  • More MILK available for seniors AND children at food banks

PHYSICAL WELLNESS

  • Free Gyms
  • Exercise classes for low income people
  • More access to cultural/traditional health activities (example: singing/dancing/pow wow classes)
  • More opportunities in the community for people struggling with addictions

COMMUNITY GARDENS/GREEN HOUSES

  • More community gardens with traditional food (not just flowers)
  • Free herbal tea
  • Teach how to grow herbs and traditional herbs
  • Year round community gardens (including green house and winter activities where applicable)
  • Bring back Indigenous corn

LIVING WITH HEALTH CHALLENGES

  • Diabetes “rehab”
  • eating well with diabetes
  • Foot care if you have been amputated for diabetes reasons
  • Heart care for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol
  • Increased access to alternative sweeteners (sugar and aspartame are both bad for us)
  • More information about the harms and benefits of alternative sweeteners and sugar
  • Access to appropriate foods for those who are diabetic or lactose intolerant

TRADITIONAL FOODS

  • Increase access to traditional foods on the land
  • How to braid sweetgrass  lessons
  • More berry picking groups (and planting berries in the city and out of the city, when we can provide transportation)
  • Sharing stories about how food can be medicine

ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE/HEALTHY FOOD IN THE INNER CITY

  • More community shuttles to grocery stores
  • Host a community vegetable sale at the end of every month (possibly at the bell tower)
  • Lower prices for healthy, organic food
  • Increased communications and access to farmers markets
  • Increase access to free healthy  family dinners throughout the week (like cooking classes that let you take what you cook home to your family ex. “make and take”)
  • Cheaper prices for local fish

KNOWLEDGE SHARING

  • Opportunities to teach community members how to grow traditional foods (in the city)
  • Cooking and preserving classes (for jams, pickling, etc.)
  • Cook Book/cooking classes with healthy recipes and ho to cook on a budget
  • More opportunities to learn about the teachings behind food (spiritually)
  • Recipe exchange program between community members and nutrition experts
  • Increased information about the dangers of dye food colouring in our foods
  • Increase the marketing of healthy foods locally
  • Art classes – make collages of healthy lifestyles
  • Ban marketing junk food to children
  • Ban free refills of sugary rinks at fast food restaraunts
  • Healthy cooking video series for YouTube/Facebook
  • Fire department could come to the bell tower to teach about first aid
  • Free Seeds / Seed Bank or Library

As you can see, there are various long term and short term initiatives or projects we could be working on as a community to try and improve the health of our relatives living in poverty or those who are already living with chronic illness. We will be sharing the academic report with community members when it is finished and will also be continuing our relationship with the National Aboriginal Diabetes Association to ensure we can do prevention and maintenance for our relatives living with diabetes.

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Natalie & Joyce from the U of MB rang the bell together

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