STONEY NAKODA – Stoney Health authorities will be able to expand their diet and nutrition program after receiving $75,000 from the province last week.
Banff MLA Cam Westhead presented Stoney Health Services CEO Aaron Khan the cheque for the expansion of the program with the funds earmarked to build a commercial kitchen.
“The goal of the program is to empower the community to learn about health and diet,” Khan explained.
Initiated last spring, through Stoney Health Services programming, two dietitians have been hosting monthly cooking classes for elementary to high school aged youth and an additional adults and elders cooking class, to educate Nation residents on how to achieve healthy diets.
“The kids learn how the food is prepared, then they take the food home and share it with their families. It is a very successful program,” Khan said.
Compromised of three bands, Wesley, Chiniki and Bearspaw, Stoney Nakoda has approximately 5,000 Nation members with the nearest grocery store located more than 30 km away.
“We have seen close to 60 children coming to each session. It is very popular and good for our community because it’s teaching the kids about the healthy food initiatives and healthy diets they can choose,” Khan said.
Currently the cooking classes are held in the Bearspaw Youth Centre kitchen, which limits how many participants can sign up due to the space available. Officials previously looked into expanding the Stoney Health Services building for the commercial cooking space, but without any secured funding from the federal government, Khan said they want to utilize the money now.
“We wanted to use this funding as soon as possible – the need is more,” the CEO explained.
Stoney Health authorities researched potential sites around the Nation and are looking into building the new kitchen in the Chiniki Cultural Centre, adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. Khan said they are still working on logistics.
“The kitchen we have now is good and it’s serving our cause, but it’s not big enough to accommodate a large group ... this will really help our community,” Khan said.
In the meantime, the monthly cooking classes will continue at the Bearspaw Youth Centre kitchen.
“It’s really rewarding for me to be able to play a small part in helping this project move forward,” Westhead said after presenting the cheque.
“Food security and nutritious meals and also coming together as a community to cook together is a way to build stronger communities and the Stoney Health Centre is doing amazing work to move this forward.”