I have become passionate about food: intern Kayleigh Russell

 In Food Skills & Nutrition, Working Together

Grab yourself a glass of water. Now take a sip. Slowly feel the water in your mouth, then in your throat and into your belly. Think about where this water came from. How did it get to you? What does water mean for you?

Leading this mindful drinking exercise with a group of newcomers was one of the favourite moments of my internship at Food Matters Manitoba.  I shared with them the story of Winnipeg’s water and how it is sourced from Shoal Lake 40, an Indigenous community in eastern Manitoba.  The story is one about the deep injustices that First Nation has faced as a result, including a long standing boil water advisory.  The source of our clean drinking water isn’t available to them!  None of these newcomers to Canada had ever heard of Shoal Lake 40, nor of the injustice of the arrangement. Later on in the program, we were cooking together and someone had left the tap running. Another participant lunged to shut it off and exclaimed, “Don’t waste Shoal Lake 40 water!!” In that moment I felt like I had made an impact.

I spent most of my time at Food Matters working with the Community Tables Program. This program seeks to provide community based organizations with the tools to navigate challenges such as working with food bank donations, providing healthy meals for community members with diabetes, working around tight budgets as well as limited resources, space, and time. Facilitating this program meant I got out to rural Manitoba and throughout the city to have conversations about how we experience food. I met lots of people who wanted to love their community by providing healthy, tasty food.

Throughout my University education I have become passionate about food. When I applied for the Inner-City Work Study Program in the Spring of 2019 I knew I wanted to work on issues of food security in Winnipeg. I believe food is so personal and essential, I wanted to learn more about how people experience it. Fortunately, I was placed with Food Matters Manitoba where I was able to learn from staff and participants while contributing to the good work they do!

I had the opportunity to facilitate classes for the Youth Cooking Program during my internship as well. Youth Cooking Classes provide an opportunity to talk about food in a fun way with kids. This dialogue creates a positive relationship between the youth and their experience of nutrition which sets them up to be aware of how the food system impacts them. It was an absolute pleasure to work with the amazing kids and staff at The Ryerson Boys and Girls Club.

One week we made sushi and tempura, for many of the youth it was their first time trying it. As we were eating together I asked the group, “So what do you think? Is it good?” and one of the boys looked at me and said “No Kayleigh, it’s not good… It’s AHmazing!” Introducing kids to new foods successfully can be so rewarding, and I was very lucky to have a group so willing to try new things!

I had the opportunity to work with so many knowledgeable, hardworking individuals during my internship and I’ve truly learned more than I can say. Although I will miss working at Food Matters, I am thankful for the experience which will stay with me throughout my career and life.