Invisible need and the case for fresh food

›› Kathryn Juricic

This holiday season, Fernwood NRG is aiming to raise money to provide fresh fruits and ­vegetables every two weeks for 160 families in need throughout Greater Victoria. Sure, we all get why this is important. But do we really understand the need, the impact? To get some insight, I sat down with Sarah ­Kinsley, counsellor and facilitator formerly at Bridges for Women, an organization that selects families, moms in this case, to receive The Gift of Good Food.

The average person with an income might not realize how much one bag of food can mean. Getting fresh food for ­dinner can be just another thing on our to-do lists. It can even be somewhat ­annoying to have to stop at the market on the way home and get all the ­necessary ingredients. Kinsley compared this ­situation to people who receive The Gift of Good Food. She shared that, “the ability to go and buy fresh food, it’s not even on the table.”

Bridges for Women is one of sixteen Gift of Good Food partner organizations that range from community centres, local First Nations and other organizations that ­support families in-need. Bridges for Women clients are women who are ­survivors of childhood and domestic ­violence, be it physical, sexual or ­emotional. Kinsley explained that, “a lot of the people we work with [at Bridges for Women] are on disability for post-traumatic stress and are single moms that are trying to get back into school or training to get back into the workforce.” These are the families that receive The Gift of Good Food.

From Sarah’s perspective, The Gift of Good Food is needed because, “access to something fresh is very rare for ­people who are relying on assistance.” But access to fresh food is so much more than proper nutrition. The part that ­Kinsley saw and loved was that consistent healthy ­ingredients to cook meals was, “­nourishing to someone’s soul. Body, mind, and soul.”

The impacts of trauma are far-reaching and fresh food can really make a difference. Another symptom of trauma, Kinsley explained, is issues related to the digestive system, like Crohn’s or IBS. “All of these things that relate to the nervous system have been affected by trauma and comes out in people’s digestive system. The Gift of Good Food helps women to rebuild a healthy relationship with eating and food. It’s huge and I love it.”

For one woman she supported, a single mom of two, with post-traumatic stress and a severe history of trauma, whenever The Gift of Good Food would come it would, “give her hope to have fresh food in the fridge.” She shared with Sarah that cooking food for her family, with ­ingredients from the Good Food Box, became her self-care ritual. “This woman would always call that day and be like, ‘is it there yet?’ It was a big deal for her to get that every other week.” Beyond having ingredients to make food for their children, recipients have the opportunity to share meals, to make their grandma’s recipes and to share cultural ­values. When that’s the case, “then it’s like an ­intergenerational way of healing.”

Sharing food builds community and having community builds resilience. One recipient told us, “I prepare food for as many people as I can, every time, to share the wealth of that gift.” The community resilience doesn’t end there. Another recipient from last year’s fundraiser, still receiving food today, said it best. “Not only has the program filled our tummies but it’s also nourished our hearts knowing that there are people out there willing to help us access wonderful foods to keep us healthy.”

Having fresh food offers the option to cook and when people are cooking meals they are gaining self-reliance, self-sufficiency and getting to use skills in the kitchen. Sarah explained it well, “we may not realize the impact that having fresh food in the fridge can have for a family.”

There are so many families in ­Victoria that are in need of fresh, healthy food. For many people, non-perishables are the only option. Please give what you can so as many families in Victoria as possible have access to fresh food.

To donate to The Gift of Good Food, please visit Please give before the fundraising deadline, December 31st at midnight.