Why tell people what your organization is up to when they can taste success for themselves?
That was the approach taken by Food Matters Manitoba at its recent annual general meeting in Winnipeg, where youth from one of the organization’s outreach programs served up their new skills by preparing creative dishes for attendees.
“I think that it was really important for us, because we want to ensure that the participant voice is heard,” said executive director Loraine Nyokong. “But there’s no better way to really get a sense of the work we do in our program than to experience it, so this venue really provided a perfect opportunity for folks to… watch the kids and see the enjoyment they get from cooking.”
Half a dozen youth from the Seven Oaks School Division’s Wayfinders program, which partners with Food Matters, were on hand at the Kitchen Sync in downtown Winnipeg to prepare food as the meeting progressed.
“They did a vegetarian gyoza and a duck gyoza, they did a pork and elk meatball, as well as a lentil meatball, they did a baguette with a squash purée and feta cheese crumble on top, and they did whole wheat bannock bites that we deep-fried then tossed in sugar and cinnamon and blueberry sauce,” said community food facilitator, Owen Campbell, who worked with the students. “They have been amazing.”
Program co-ordinator David Heinrichs, who teaches one of the seven cooking classes Food Matters offers to youth, said that they work to teach kids recipes that are both healthy and fit into various cultural traditions.
“We thought it was really the best way to really get that connection between the program we’re doing and the people who support us,” he said.
Food Matters offers classes and programs that focus on traditional Indigenous cooking, food gathering, hunting and have programs aimed at newcomers to Canada, remote communities like Leaf Rapids, Fox Lake and Shamattawa, as well as community gardens, composting and more.
To better reflect the organization’s broadened scope, Food Matters has also updated its bylaws and refreshed its purpose at the meeting.
“We’ve made the shift to be more broad when we talk about accessibility to food because we’ve realized that just that focus on providing education about food isn’t enough,” said outgoing chair, Angela Chotka.
According to the amended bylaws, the purpose of the organization is now “to work with people in Manitoba to increase opportunities for people to eat good food.”
Chotka said it was important to expand beyond the education mandate that the organization began with some years ago, because so much of the work being done was now tied to access to food.
“This is to broaden our scope, not to limit us,” she added, noting that over the last decade people have become far more aware of food insecurity. “We know that we need good food for healthy people and healthy communities.”