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Access to food crucial to Salmon Arm society’s work on Indigenous wellness

‘Huge need’ for food security for families when traditional ways of sharing absent
Rise Up Helping Hands volunteers Irene Anderson and Marley Ormondy, program director Sherrelle Anderson and executive director Launa Payne, and volunteer Chantell Ducharme make healthy food and put together tote bags on Feb. 24 to give away. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

At Rise Up Indigenous Wellness in Salmon Arm, food security is an ever-present focus.

The aim of the non-profit society, which has been in the region for over two years, is to support Indigenous families, youth and children in the region who are off reserve or away from their home communities.

Executive director Launa Payne and program director Sherrelle Anderson explained they have made food security for families an integral part of the holistic programs they offer. “At the start we were running programs, but there was such a huge need for providing food security for families,” Payne said.

“We found that our programs were an opportunity to distribute food because, particularly during all the no-meeting pandemic guidelines, our traditional way of sharing food, which would have been cultural gatherings where people take things home after, was interrupted.”

They started doing things such as send-home packages, while keeping in mind the aim to decolonize the diet as much as possible.

They looked at sending more fish and different game when it was available, for example, or even chicken and beef. And avoiding processed foods, sugar and starch, as much as possible.

With their Helping Hands program, Indigenous people who want to lend a hand come in and everyone builds hampers together, which are then distributed to families in need.

“When we distribute to our groups, we found this is a good way to build relationships,” explained Anderson.

“It kind of takes away from us trying to advertise what we’re doing.

“It’s just part of the package. If you’re in our group, you get the food, so it takes away the stigmatization in a way. It’s for everybody in the group, it’s not just like picking and choosing families. It seems like the easier way for us to help anybody. Because you don’t always know who’s in need too.”

There’s less talk-down, added Payne.

“If we’re doing a food group or say, one of our things was doing Cook with Kids, so we make food people can bring home to cook at home with their children,” Payne said.

“But some of the prep stuff would be the parents visiting and connecting. Just that we’re all helping each other out, rather than a saviour mentality.”

Read more: Indigenous teachings: Salmon Arm resident shares how to connect kids to nature

Read more: Rise Up Indigenous Wellness Society ready to roll in the Shuswap

The women noted they’re currently grant-dependent and are still building and growing their organization.

They have reached out to local bands and have working relationships with Splatsin and Neskonlith. They expect as they grow they may overlap with all four bands.

The women agree that building collaboration between different organizations which are providing food is important.

“We can do it in a lot of different ways,” said Payne, noting Rise Up donated foods to Food with Friends. “We’re all doing the same thing – it’s just how can we help support each other’s programming.”

Payne said a number of Salmon Arm businesses have been very supportive, such as Grillers Meats, Askew’s Foods and Save-On- Foods. “That’s one thing we are doing well right now as a community.”

The women emphasized that direct food support is huge, particularly with current high prices.

“Any way we can connect around that,” Payne said. “In the fall the last couple of years, we have done some canning and processing and workshops with families around that. How do we preserve food, how do we get healthy food on a budget – a callout if there’s any excess at local farms, it would be useful for that.”

Their vision for the future is to see more food programs that are holistic and family based, which would require having more access to funding to be able to feed more families and keep supports in place.

For more information on Rise Up Indigenous Wellness programs, visit the website or email
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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