What is a Community Food Mentor (CFM) program? Basically, it’s training people to initiate projects that increase food security in our communities.
I first heard about the CFM program on CBC. I think it was Alya Nouasri who was talking about one that she and Janet Hamilton of the Mapleton Food Kitchen were going to run. It sounded intriguing but I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around what a community food mentor would be.
The problem with grasping what CFMs do is that people don’t understand that food security isn’t just about poverty, it’s not just about food banks. Ultimately, it’s about how sustainable our whole food system is and the big questions are How can we feed ourselves good food? and How can we do it without ruining the planet?
The CFM Program originated in Ontario, but has its own identity here in the Greater Moncton Area, and it’s growing.
The United Way and The Mapleton Teaching Kitchen teamed up in 2010 and modified the original program to address the particular food and nutrition needs of Southeast New Brunswick. It’s a grassroots movement of people certified to share food and nutrition know-how with the community and to build food capacity.
Food security projects
Probably the best way to grasp what CFMs do is to list some projects they might start.
- Community kitchens or gardens
- Workshops like cooking, food safety, eating well on a budget, feeding your kids well, or growing and preserving your own food
- Food information booths at community venues like farmers markets, health fairs, or community events
- Or simply bringing people together with local producers to celebrate and share food knowledge with friends
- CFMs can also start their own CFM programs because it is a train-the-trainer program
CFM programs vary but they’re always a combination of theory and practice. You learn about how to apply for a grant, how to cook with a group by cooking — and eating — meals together, budgeting skills, food safety (you get a real certificate), and an introduction to what the whole food system in your area looks like.
The programs usually run over several days so it’s not a casual commitment. Once you’re done, though, I can tell you that you will feel food savvy,, but you will also feel empowered to make some changes in your community. What’s even more important, though, is that you will feel that you are now part of a community of like-minded people who feel that food really does matter and believe that CFMs can make a difference.