In this weeks Food Makers & Changers Interview, we get to know Joan Stonehocker of York Region Food Network!
Joan’s life-long passion for growing and eating healthy food aligns perfectly with her role as the Executive Director of York Region Food Network. She has a background in business, with degrees from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto. Joan moved into the social service realm after spending several years at home raising her four children. Joan is Vice Chair of York Region Food for Learning, Chairs the Food System Alliance of York Region and is a member of the York Region Agriculture Advisory Liaison Group. Her leadership skills enable York Region Food Network to promote sustainable solutions to food insecurity, demonstrate waste free practices throughout the organization and continuously develop and promote healthy food projects that are a catalyst for building strong and vibrant communities. Outside of her work life, Joan participates in other interests as Chair of the Newmarket Public Library Board and the founder of Cycle Newmarket, a group that advocates for safe cycling infrastructure.
What is one change you’d like to see happen within the food system and why?
I would like to see policies and practices that place a priority on health: of people and the environment. Everyone needs to learn about healthy eating and cooking at school. We need to ensure that food is recognized as a basic right and that everyone has the resources to choose healthy food if they wish to.
If you could only have three vegetables for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
This is a tough question because my tastes change along with the seasons. By the end of the winter, I’m ready to leave those delicious vegetables that we can store like carrots, beets and cabbage and start thinking about leafy greens, tomatoes and zucchini. Onions, I need all year round.
If you could only have one non-local food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Avocados (that’s assuming that buying locally roasted coffee counts as local)
Where do you stand on local vs organic vs simply eating whole foods? What are your personal priorities when it comes to your own diet?
I really enjoy cooking simple whole foods. When I shop I try and buy local as much as possible and my diet changes with the time of year. After years of living on a limited budget, I’m always excited by discounted food that I can go home and use right away – often getting to try new things that I’m afraid to risk paying full price for or can’t afford. I choose organic when I can, and try and shop weekly at our local Farmers’ Market.
What is your favourite season and why?
I love spring because it is full of possibility. Watching my rhubarb, garlic and strawberries all growing with the promise of great fresh food right in my own back yard. Plus you can stop wearing socks and get out on your bike.
If you came back to earth for three more lifetimes, what life form would you choose to be and why?
After reading about the ‘Secret Lives of Trees’ and the way that they live together, I wouldn’t mind being part of a tree community where everyone looks after each other and diversity is the strength of the forest.
What do you daily or weekly to try and be a part of the solution when it comes to creating a sustainable food system?
Compost! In our house we all know that there are three composts: the red wigglers in the kitchen worm bin get their favourites – things like pumpkin and melon rinds and those things that went slimy in the crisper, most vegetable scraps go into the back yard compost, and bones and citrus head out to the curb in the green bin.
What is one of your favourite memories of eating in community?
Wednesdays at YRFN! I often get to share in the meal prepared at our Wednesday community kitchen programs. I always love sitting around a table sharing stories and laughter over delicious food.
A quick summary of your approach to community development
Community development happens best when you create space for people to be involved and contribute. When people come together, we focus on things we can agree on. It’s important to remain flexible – there is more than one way to get things done.
What issue/passion inspires you to keep doing the work you do day after day?
I love the way that the way we think about food can be a metaphor for everything else in our lives and we can make choices everyday, with every meal, that reflects our values.
I have a weakness for chip wagon French fries….and fatty foods in general. Chicken thigh skins done in the actifry are a crispy treat.
Connect with Joan
This post is part of the HH Food Makers and Changers series, introducing you to friends in the food community that are making a big difference.