FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is investing more than $35,000 to support the Community Food Mentor program this year.

Healthy and Inclusive Communities Minister Dorothy Shephard, who is also the government co-chair of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, made the announcement while presenting program completion certificates to 13 graduates from the Fredericton area.

"Food is a powerful connector,” she said. “People talk about it, read about it, experiment with it, eat it and enjoy it daily. The actions undertaken by the Community Food Mentor program will advance the goals of the New Brunswick wellness strategy as well as the poverty reduction plan, Overcoming Poverty Together, because they bring people together from all walks of life, including different economic and social backgrounds."

Trainees become certified community food mentors by completing a four-day training program led by public health dieticians and by completing a one-day food safety certification course. Training is conducted as a shared learning experience with opportunities for participants to learn from each other well as from guest speakers.

Food mentors take action on food security by implementing projects in various settings, including food banks, community and seniors centres, youth groups, cultural groups, church groups and farmers’ markets.

"These dedicated and trained volunteers are now ready to share their new knowledge of food skills, healthy eating practices and access to food within their communities," said Brian Duplessis, the non-profit co-chair of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation. "Sometimes what holds a person back from acting on his or her ideas is a lack of information and connections. These volunteers are now well-suited and prepared to inspire community builders in their work to translate great food, based on community initiatives, into tangible actions and results."

Other food mentor partners in the Fredericton program include the Department of Social Development, the Horizon Health Network, Greater Fredericton Social Innovation, United Way Central New Brunswick, Centre de santé Noreen-Richard Health Centre, the University of New Brunswick, the Nashwaaksis United Church, the Doone Street Community Tenant Group, the Fredericton Food Bank, Volunteer Greater Fredericton, Ce D'Ici and local food producers.

"I thank all of the volunteers and organizations for lending their time to this worthy cause," said Shephard. "Thanks to your help, we are now better positioned than before to rebuild a stronger, healthier and more inclusive New Brunswick for all to benefit from."

In addition to Fredericton, the Community Food Mentor program is offered on the Acadian Peninsula and in Bath, Charlotte County, Cocagne, Edmundston, the Elsipogtog First Nation, Saint John and Woodstock.

For more information about the Community Food Mentor program,  contact the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities.