Agency Profile 8: The Four Villages Community Health Centre
The Four Villages Community Health Centre (CHC) seeks a healthy food impact that goes beyond their many food and nutrition-related programs. They provide vouchers for a local Junction Farmers’ Market to their clients who are food insecure. They started a breakfast club, $1 for a healthy breakfast, in a local community housing building as well as the Good Food Box program at their Dundas location. Both Four Villages’ locations Bloor and Dundas have emergency food cupboards and their registered dietitians have a limited supply of emergency food coupons for clients in need.
Four Villages offers nutrition programs which teach people how to make healthy food from scratch and on a low budget including: how to make baby food, and how to include more fruits and vegetables in daily meals. Their prenatal/postnatal program for women at risk Healthy Women, Healthy Babies provides food vouchers and a dietitian advice and has succeeded in 100% babies born to the women in the program with above average weight.
The Four Villages Community Health Centre has co-developed and adopted the “Healthy Eating Guidelines” for food procurement now in force at several community health centres across the city. These guidelines specify everything from the nutritional value of the food to be offered in programs or meetings to a preference for Ontario-grown products. With small volumes of food for an array of programs and program staff, they rely on the local supermarkets for most of their supplies. Four Villages seeks to balance the immediacy of hunger with helping clients to access healthier food through its programs or community outlets, and learn/improve food skills and nutrition knowledge.
Although they have significant expertise around cooking, they have not been able to mobilize funding for a food oriented staff position yet. The development of the healthy eating guidelines and an introduction of the food security chart audit have helped bring staff together to increase awareness of and discuss food and food security issues and how they can be best approached by Four Villages. This is an ongoing conversation that can involve many people from different perspectives of community health. Recently dietitians from the two sites joined the Food Flow project at the Community Chef workshops, and provided valuable insights into nutritional issues for community meal provision.