Growing hope: Sask. partners teach Rosthern about food security

Community catalyst for the Rosthern Good Neighbours Food Centre, Jessica Sandell, speaks to a guest about her bruschetta made from produce out of the food bank gardens on August 24, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“I think solving food waste is going to go hand in hand with solving food insecurity.”

– Jenni Schrenk

A group of partners making up Grow Hope Saskatchewan gathered in Rosthern on Saturday to provide the community with an interactive learning experience on food security.

Grow Hope Saskatchewan is a partnership between the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the Saskatoon Catholic Diocese and their agency Development of Peace, as well as the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The Field Day consisted of formal presentations and the opportunity to go to four different stations in and around Rosthern to learn about locally grown food.

Rick Guenther is the communications and donor relations director for MCC.

“In many communities in Saskatchewan, it’s an unexpected amount of how much food (food banks) supply to local folks,” he said.

Last March, 1,000 people visited the Rosthern Good Neighbours Food Centre, compared to one million people across Canada’s food banks.

Forty-nine per cent of Rosthern’s clients are children.

“That’s an amazing number that you wouldn’t expect from a community that, on the surface, looks like it’s doing very, very well and yet even here, people struggle with food security,” said Guenther.

Those statistics were provided by Jessica Sandell, the community catalyst for the Good Neighbours Food Centre.

She was at one of the stations—one of the five food bank gardens located outside of the School of Dance. She gave guests a taste of bruschetta made from produce from their gardens.

Jessica Sandell (left), community catalyst for the Good Neighbours Food Centre in Rosthern, speaks to guests about the food bank’s gardens just outside the School of Dance on August 24, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“People don’t have the expectation that they’re going to get so much fresh produce,” she said. “They see the gardens around town and around the food bank. They’re aware that they exist, but then to be receiving these gifts, people are so thankful.”

Even before they had the land to grow gardens, Sandell said they gave out seeds and encouraged people to grow their own food.

“We have kids in our schools and our community that are going hungry and it’s such a sad thing because the decisions being made in that household surrounding finances and purchase of food is not up to them,” said Sandell.

One of their goals is to provide workshops and cooking classes specifically for children.

Another station was at the Good Neighbours Food Centre, where Jenni Schrenk was serving three appetizers: a lentil dish, salad with a Saskatoon berry vinaigrette and whole wheat bannock.

Lentils are a common ingredient supplied in food bank baskets, but Schrenk said people don’t always know how to cook with them. She handed out recipes for the dish, which costs about seven dollars and feeds eight people.

Jenni Schrenk, commonly known as Chef Jenni, serves bannock at the Rosthern Good Neighbours Food Centre for the Grow Hope Field Day on August 24, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Schrenk started out cooking for a restaurant in Birch Hills. Growing up north of La Ronge, she cooked from ingredients she collected off the land.

“I would pick berries and rosehips and mint from right around the lake, labrador tea, that was all kind of natural to me. When I moved down to a more southern part of the province, I had to learn a little bit more about what could be foraged. I love using foraged and wild ingredients.”

She said food waste is her number one pet peeve.

“It’s something that I strive not to contribute to, so I think solving food waste is going to go hand in hand with solving food insecurity,” said Schrenk.

“We have so much food. No one should be hungry, but they are whether it’s from lack of knowledge about resources, lack of funding to places that provide food.”

Guests were given a card with four questions on it, which they could answer by visiting all four stations. They submitted their cards to the main tent for a chance to win a door prize.

The Grow Hope Field Day launched last year in Rosthern.