Lending Kitchen Essentials: Neqotkuk First Nation’s innovative approach

By Katherine Houser, Horizon Community Developer for the Upper River Valley area from Nackawic to Beechwood.

Food has the power to bring people together. Enjoying a nutritious meal with family and friends can leave you feeling good mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

It gives you a chance to relax and enjoy quality time with loved ones, unwind after a long day, share countless stories, and lots of laughter – leaving you with a full heart and full belly.

Cooking and preparing meals at home with friends and family is a great way to connect and learn new skills. You can experiment in the kitchen and try new foods as a family and learn what recipes you all enjoy and will actually eat.

In 2019, the Food Security Committee from the Western Valley Wellness Network and Upper River Valley Community Food Smart programs in the area (local bulk-buying clubs for fruit and vegetable bags) conducted a survey to identify barriers and limitations that prevent people from preparing nutritious meals at home.

They had 79 people from Woodstock, Florenceville-Bristol, Perth-Andover, and Tobique First Nation respond to the survey, who said 45 per cent of the time they changed a recipe or did not make it at all because they did not have the required kitchen equipment. Sometimes, this was something as simple as a frying pan or cookie sheet.

In an effort to reduce this barrier and better support those wanting to cook and prepare more meals at home, the group proposed the idea of a kitchen equipment lending library, similar to the model libraries use.

The idea is simple – those interested would become a member of the kitchen equipment lending library, ‘take out’ a piece of equipment for a designated time, be offered formal instructions on how to use the equipment (along with safety instructions when needed), and return the piece of equipment by a set date in the same condition it was first loaned.

A $1,000, Community Innovation Grant (COIN-G) from Horizon Health Network was received to help purchase kitchen equipment and shelving. The shelving is to store the equipment and showcase items that are available for lending. Donations of kitchen equipment from community members are also being accepted.

COIN-G is a grant program for application by community stakeholders in partnership with Horizon to fund initiatives or projects within local communities. This grant supports projects related to population health that focus on the social determinants of health, and where possible, respond to the priorities determined through the Community Health Needs Assessments.

This allows community members to test out appliances that may be new to them and see if it eases meal preparation in their household before investing in a kitchen appliance that could end up collecting dust on the shelf.

This also works well during the harvesting season for larger items that aren’t typically used year-round, such as: large stock pots or roasting pans for corn boils and large family gatherings.

The COIN-G funding enabled the idea come to life through a partnership with Tobique’s Food Pantry and Tobique First Nation Health Centre. The Kitchen Equipment Lending Library is now open to the Neqotkuk (Tobique) First Nation community!

The program is housed at Tobique’s Food Pantry, and other partners include Horizon Health Network, Western Valley Wellness Network’s Food Security Committee and Community Food Smart programs in the area.

These organizations are working with Tobique’s Food Pantry and the Tobique First Nation Health Centre to track the program’s progress, access funds to support upkeep of the program, and coordinate volunteers to assit with the program as needed.

A launch lunch featuring homemade chilli and rolls will be held  Nov. 12 to help engage and inform the community about the new program. Public Health COVID-19 guidelines will be followed and community members will receive their lunch to-go with an information pamphlet on the program.

As the first Kitchen Equipment Lending Library in the Upper River Valley region, we look forward to seeing how the program progresses and hearing feedback from community on what worked and what could be done differently.

We hope to see the program expand to other communities in our region if it is successful! Bon appétit!

Katherine Houser has been a community developer with Horizon since 2018. She currently serves the Upper River Valley area, covering from Nackawic to Beechwood. She is working towards completing her Masters in Applied Health Services Research through Saint Mary’s University. Her free time is often spent outdoors or on the volleyball court.

Katherine is passionate about taking a holistic approach to health and empowering others to create sustainable change. She strongly believes in the importance of building strong, meaningful relationships with community members. Katherine strives to bring people together and help provide structure for her community’s passions.

She is always up for a cup of coffee and conversation  – if you have any ideas for new partnerships or community projects, don’t hesitate to reach out to her at katherine.houser@HorizonNB.ca