Springhill, Oxford ‘Gettin’ Healthy’ with food security programs

By Ann Keddy

Gettin’ Healthy Springhill 2013 and Gettin’ Healthy Oxford 2015 are “healthy town” projects with a focus on community food security and healthy eating in recreational and public spaces. The primary goal of both projects is to increase access to healthy food in public settings through collaboration and capacity building among community organizations.


Cumberland County has consistently low socio-economic scores when compared to other areas of the province, according to Community Counts NS. When determinants of health are factored in, the goal of services targeted at food access, food literacy, and healthy food policies in public settings made a lot of sense for both communities.


With funding from THRIVE and support from more than 20 community partners, including Nova Scotia Health Authority, both projects have had positive impacts in their respective communities. Healthy food commitment statements, endorsed by municipal groups, are in place in various public buildings. Six community gardens have been established adjacent to seniors’ complexes, a hospital, a foodbank, and sports complexes. The Ecology Action Centre’s Our Food project has offered significant support to garden development and sustainability.


In Oxford, a community shared agriculture food box program was successfully implemented with the local YMCA day care. Healthy food was offered at several community events targeting children and youth in partnership with sports leaders and local producers.


Local food cooking and canning classes, farmers market demonstrations and gardening workshops were offered by seniors, dietitians, municipal physical activity leaders and co-op students.


In Springhill, the partnership with the health system saw taste-testing events and food skills sessions using the “Goodness in Many Ways” model offered. With a direct link to the “Your Way to Wellness” Chronic Disease self-management programs, facilitators have been trained to offer cooking skills programs and the availability of fresh produce from the community garden has helped promote those efforts. With the help of summer students, the Salvation Army food bank operationalized a monthly food box program for low income families whereby $30 worth of produce is available to families and individuals for $15. The food box program continues to help upwards of 40 families


The original Springhill practice was recognized by Accreditation Canada as a Leading Innovative Practice for its coordinated, multi-layer strategy to address community food literacy and for the unique way in which the municipalities and other organizations have endorsed the cooperative management of the project’s funds. Both projects continue to be sustainable and work together. The goal for 2016 is to share successes with other municipal leaders and take the Gettin’ Healthy brand across the county.