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Indigenous cooking classes at GROW Food Literacy centre part of respecting cultures

By Paul Forsyth

Niagara This Week - Niagara Falls

Tuesday March 9, 2021


Roxanne Molyneaux, Indigenous outreach manager at the GROW Community Food Literacy Centre in Niagara Falls, said she's proud to see Indigenous recipes featured in a new cooking series by the centre.


At a time when it seems there’s a fast food joint on every corner cranking out a steady stream of burgers, fries and sugary pop, Chase Dockstader offers an alternative — simple food recipes that come from the earth.

He’s sharing his love of healthy, vegan recipes that originate with Indigenous peoples, as part of efforts by the GROW Community Food Literacy Centre in Niagara Falls to begin introducing cooking and food skills programs, in addition to the affordable Saturday morning market it runs on Fourth Avenue.

With COVID-19 restrictions making in-person cooking classes impractical for now, Dockstader fired up his kitchen and led four new virtual cooking classes, available on YouTube, featuring different Indigenous recipes each week.

In his first video, Dockstader showed how to make traditional bannock bread, a hardy, healthy food that can go with virtually anything.

He also demonstrated how to make "Three Sisters Soup," a hearty dish featuring squash, beans, and corn, which pairs superbly with bannock bread.

Pam Farrell, executive director of GROW, said the Indigenous cooking series is the brainchild of the registered charity’s community advisory committee, and meshes with GROW’s philosophy of promoting healthier food choices that are affordable, while being culturally sensitive.

“Indigenous peoples are extremely vulnerable to household food insecurity and are more likely to experience severe food insecurity,” said Farrell.

Roxanne Molyneaux, GROW’s Indigenous outreach manager, said she’s proud to see Indigenous recipes to be the first in the cooking series that Farrell will offer. Others include blind/low vision cooking, toddler/child food literacy, youth cooking, and cooking for critical illness survivors, among others.

“Getting the word out there, teaching people about our culture, about our food and what it means to our Indigenous culture, this means the most to me,” said Molyneaux.

“We hold our food very high up in native traditions,” she said. “Food brings everybody together.”

In Indigenous culture, people are taught at a young age that meals are for sharing, she said.

If Indigenous people don’t have the means to eat traditional food or have enough to share with family and friends, it can have a real impact on their well-being and their ability to practise their culture, said Molyneaux.

“I feel honoured to be a part of GROW because we respect all cultures, celebrate diversity and value people’s heritage,” she said. “We believe that access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food, that is culturally appropriate, (is) a basic human right.”

GROW also recently released a series of ‘Community Chef’ virtual cooking classes featuring dishes such as fruit crisp, vegan lentil soup, and barley, beet and cabbage soup.

GROW also plans, once COVID-19 protocols deem it safe, to introduce community meals that bring people together to celebrate food, said Farrell.

The cooking classes are available for viewing at

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-e-xuSZNKJx2hWNOFgMANQ.

Farrell said she hopes the restrictions related to the pandemic, that prevent gatherings, haven’t lessened the impact of the new virtual cooking classes.

“While we are in a state of emergency, this program has brought people together from various backgrounds and experiences, sharing knowledge and laughter, while building a sense of community and belonging through the power of good food,” she said.

Farrell said other members of the community have also offered to run cooking classes highlighting their culture and heritage, including Polish, Haitian, and Indian.

Dockstader said food is something Indigenous people have always cherished as part of the earth’s bounty.

“We honour life every time we eat food because it’s a blessing to basically breathe air and be grateful to live,” he said. “You have to be grateful for everything in life because everything around you is a part of you.”

Chase Dockstader leads one of the virtual Indigenous cooking classes for the GROW Community Food Literacy Centre in Niagara Falls. GROW YOUTUBE SCREEN CAPTURE


STORY BEHIND THE STORY:

After learning about a new series of Indigenous cooking classes, Niagara This Week explored how it can have a positive impact by sharing a sense of community and respecting different cultures.


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