Food Security and Food Literacy at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts

Food Security and Food Literacy at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts
Submitted

Kathleen Novelia arrived at Ross Creek at just the right time. The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, outside of Canning, brings together arts education with community and professional artist programs, and was looking to expand its year-round programs and include more culinary arts in its work.

Kathleen, originally from Indonesia, was a cook and pastry chef who had become disillusioned with the amount of food waste in big hotels. She moved into food security, doing projects in Montreal and Tanzania. She was travelling the Maritimes with her dog Buddy when she and Executive Director Chris O’Neill met over tea. O’Neill hired her on the spot.

While its mission is all arts-related, making the most of the property, and the skills and talents of the staff and the facilities of Ross Creek, is vital to the centre’s success. O’Neill says her decision to hire Kathleen has been proved right repeatedly, but never more than during this pandemic.

“Initially, she was making new connections with local farmers and food banks, and reducing our food budget by reducing waste. Being an arts centre doesn’t absolve us of operating in the greenest way we can, doing our part to ensure food security, reduce food waste, and support the health of our extended community. She was adding new cooking classes, high teas, and other food and arts related events, while providing fabulous food for the artists and camps, until she had to switch focus this March.”

In early March of this year, Ross Creek prepared for March Break Day Camps, which for Kathleen meant that food supplies were purchased and preparations underway to make 475 meals for the program. And then, suddenly, the world shifted and March Break had to be cancelled, only one day before it began.

Ross Creek, through Kathleen, saw its challenge in finding a way to use what was already on hand, and try to help families that found themselves in need during that sudden and radical change for us all. In their first week after the cancellation of all programs through the province, Kathleen made meals for Chrysalis House and some community families that were suddenly without food.

Since March 15, Ross Creek has continued to work with Chrysalis House and added local schools, Kids Action Program, The Portal, and personal referrals, now serving 40 families per week (over 200 individual meals). Kathleen now has an assistant from Acadia University’s nutrition department two days per week and two volunteers helping in the kitchen daily, with deliveries to families throughout the Valley. Thanks to support from local organic farmers, as well as funding from foundations, community groups, and individuals, the food security program at Ross Creek is truly making a positive impact in the community.

When asked how menus are planned for so many, she’s quick to reply “It’s 100 percent about using what is available! Ironically, the Covid-19 situation is providing a positive opportunity for us to help people learn more about working together, finding alternatives, and stretching food resources as far as possible with whatever we have.”

Kathleen has settled at Ross Creek for now, building a tiny house on the property for herself and Buddy. They are not only a fixture at Ross Creek, but in the community. When she isn’t in the kitchen, she can be found gleaning on local farms, and connecting with community support groups, or even walking on the beach with Buddy, now that it’s allowed again. Kathleen wants to keep going with food outreach in her role at Ross Creek, all while feeding the community that comes together, in whatever way, at Ross Creek this summer. O’Neill is all for it: “Kathleen is a powerhouse and we are so proud to have her on our team, taking care of her adopted community.”

For more information about the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, please visit artscentre.ca.

Photo:
Food preparation underway in the Ross Creek kitchen by Kathleen and her team, for deliveries May 20, 2020. Left to right: Norbert Rohloff, Kathleen Novelia, Carol Fellowes, Kaiyue Wen