A window across the nations – good food without borders through My Food Community

A window across the nations – good food without borders through My Food Community

When we caught up with Jade, a nutritionist from Derry, Northern Ireland she is in her office and studio in the heart of the city. A busy business owner, Jade created Restore Nutrition after studying in London at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. Her aim is to blend her work with private nutrition clients with her passion for helping and supporting the community she grew up in. 

Strong desire to share skills  

Jade is good at juggling, she manages a real mix of community programmes, supporting a variety of people in the community with nutrition education and cooking skills, including people with mental health and addiction issues. She also delivers a programme that looks at women’s health as well as food education and includes hands on cooking sessions. 

As a solo business owner Jade had been seeking out a training programme to upskill on community leadership and she wanted to meet people with the same aims as her. She found My Food Community – created by Food for Life Get Togethers via Nourish NI, who Jade is involved with as part of their veg advocate programme. Reading the callout for participants for 2022 cohort of My Food Community came at the perfect time and she joined the programme in September. 

My Food Community focuses on learning and personal development, connecting with others and the wider good food movement. 

It is designed to inspire and support members to: 

  1. Build knowledge: learn together and individually, and access resources
  2. Connect with others who champion good food: in your community and across the UK 
  3. Develop leadership skills: take action and lead positive change for good food in your community. 

Chatting to Jade as the sun streams through the windows I ask her what she has gained 3 months into the 6 month long programme. She immediately responds that she now knows who she is as a leader and how to create change, it has been the modules on leadership styles that have been most transformative.  

She feels freed to be the leader she wants to be, and she has learned what the attributes of a good leader are, and she said; “I want to make meaningful change and to do that in my community I need to get the skills I need so I can become someone who is trusted, listened to and who can bring people together. What I love about My Food Community is that it meets you where you are, and you can be from any walk of life or have a different style, in fact good leaders often do have different styles and approaches.” 

Community action with a heart 

Jade is passionate about community action with a purpose, she believes that the whole system must change and that disparate groups need to come together to create a plan. “What use is a four-week course for an hour-a-week to someone who has never learned to cook? That isn’t enough time to create a behaviour change, but the majority of the time that is the short bursts of funding that I, and other local groups, can get.” She continues “We all know that an individual needs to repeat, learn and gain confidence over a longer period to change a behaviour, so why is it thought that groups can achieve the same in a matter of weeks?” 

Using national campaigns locally 

Jade is increasingly worried about how the winter ahead and how the cost-of-living crisis will affect her community and the people she supports. She has already seen a slowing of local and national funding at a time she says it is needed more than ever. 

Which is why she has joined forces with the local food bank to create a Cook and Share workshop in November at Foyle Food Bank. She hosted a cook-along where people went along to learn a recipe together, the made a spicy bean chilli and wedges and the food had been provided by the food bank and locally grown veggies. The group shared a meal at the end and there will also be enough for everyone to take home, along with recipe sheets. 

As Jade says: “I want to create a warm and welcoming environment and Cook and Share Month embodies that, we are going to make a warming and nutritious chilli together and connect over good food.” 

What next for Jade 

There is fire in Jade’s belly – she feels that for too long the agencies working in her area have been reactionary, often due to short-term funding or missing links that prevent them from looking at wider issues collectively. Often charitable funding is very targeted, Jade believes groups need to pool ideas and look community wide. She believes she has a role to play. “I want to be at the forefront of changing how food access and food education is delivered in my community. I have an aim to bring people with reach together across a table and do things differently.” 

A sense of community across the nations 

My Food Community recruits members from across the UK, where they mostly meet via video call then come together a couple of times a year to cement learning and build connections. Jade is thrilled that, being in Northern Ireland, she can be part of a UK-wide network that brings together people from so many wide-ranging professions which include; horticulturists to teachers, social workers to youth workers.  

In fact, Jade thinks this diverse mix of people who all have a joint passion for creating good food links locally, is the whole reason My Food Community works so well. “I have connected with Diana who is working in Individual and Ecologic Health and who loves urban gardening and lives in Scotland, there is just no way our paths would have crossed without MFC.  Yet we have linked up through MFC and I already know my work here in Derry is going to be better because of that relationship.” 

Jade has a passion for Hygge, said to come from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console,” and she wants to use this as her linchpin to create connections and a community working together this Winter. We have no doubt that anything Jade achieves will feel like a warm hug this winter. 

Find out more about My Food Community here.

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