Food assessment gives St. Vital residents food for thought

Report looks at regional challenges and offers insight

Residents in St. Vital are biting off a mouthful of food issues from the recent St. Vital Community Food Assessment.

The report, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation and the Province of Manitoba, was conducted by Food Matters Manitoba and its partners in St. Vital. The assessment takes a close look at a community with both some of the wealthiest and lowest-income areas in the city, and identifies challenges and opportunities for healthy foods.

“Without the assessment we would not have understood or imagined the hurdles preventing part of our St. Vital community from accessing wholesome and nutritious food,” said Louise Hébert-Saindon, executive director of Youville Centre.

The findings uncovered many of the gaps and challenges surrounding food in the community, and are helping to put the issues of accessing healthy and local food in the suburbs in a new light.

• Approximately 70 per cent of residents are overweight or obese.

• Only 11 per cent of residents live in a walkable distance to a grocery store.

• Few people are aware of food-related programs already happening in the community.

While the report uncovered community challenges, it also discovered many community food resources already in place. St Vital is home to many of Winnipeg’s farms and is home to 175 food businesses. Other community resources include community gardens, nutrition and cooking classes, food banks, and transportation for seniors to the grocery store. However, these programs are often underresourced or rely on aging volunteers.

“The report identifies the opportunities that exist to greatly enhance the lives of children, adults and seniors from all walks of life. At the same time, the study shares a vision to inspire a community to work together toward good healthy food from a variety of sources,” said Gene Nawolsky, membership and garden allotment director for the South Winnipeg Garden Club.

Residents and community organizations have already started to think of ways and create strategies to make healthy foods more accessible for everyone.

“We’ve already heard lots of interest about the report and ideas for implementing action in St. Vital,” said assessment co-ordinator Stefan Epp-Koop. “This is an encouraging sign and an exciting opportunity for the people of St. Vital to use food to achieve a vibrant economy and healthy community.”

For more information and the full version of the report go to (http://www.foodinstvital.ca).

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