It takes a community to make local food happen- and one key part of that community is the influencers. These influencers come in many different forms, from your student nutrition champions, to your university professors. Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Tillsonburg Ontario’s own Nicole VanQuaethem- nutritionist extraordinaire. First off, what makes Nicole so crazy about local? Her background holds some explanation- growing up in a farming family means she always had a strong tie to agriculture. Today, her family continues to do interesting things with local food, such as growing hops for craft breweries in the area.
But don’t take it all from me, Nicole, care to introduce yourself?
Nicole: Hello! My name is Nicole VanQuaethem and I am the owner of Simply Nic Nutrition, which focuses on educating and empowering people to make healthy food choices for themselves through one-on-one coaching and workshops. The goal is to share recipes, resources and inspiration that are attainable to general population. I recently completed my Masters of Science in Rural Planning and Development from the University of Guelph where I focused my research on local food systems, agri-tourism and culinary tourism in rural Ontario. In September of 2016 I became a Culinary Nutrition Expert from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition and I am currently attending the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
Why is promoting local food so important to you?
Nicole: One of the main reasons is to support the producers who are growing it, and in turn, support economic development within these farming communities that have faced hardships over the years from the rise and fall of certain crops. I grew up in a farming family so I have always had a strong tie to agriculture. While in school, I was able to do research on food security, food sovereignty and food systems in both an international and local setting. At SCOR Economic Development Corporation I also had the pleasure of helping manage the SCOR FoodHub, which focused on supporting small to mid-sized producers gain more market access to the broader public sector. Through my own business I approach nutrition and wellness from a unique perspective and try to incorporate food literacy into my coaching. I believe people have become disconnected from the food they eat, so I find that its not only important for people to eat well to improve their health, but also understand what went into allowing them to have access to this healthy food.
Since you’re a local expert, could you recommend some of your favourite local things?
Nicole: The New New Age located in Port Stanley, Ontario is one of my favourite shops- they also have a farm in southwestern Ontario, where much of their product comes from. They focus a lot of their efforts on creating sustainable products that promote health and wellness, and increase biodiversity on their farm. They have anything from loose leaf teas and local honey to beauty care products and accessories.
My favourite restaurant is The Combine, located in Simcoe, Ontario that focuses on using the highest quality local food ingredients in their dishes. It’s also a great place for people who have food sensitivities as their staff are very accommodating!
Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery located in Waterford, Ontario is a beautiful lavender farm that also makes their own wines and ciders. They also make home care products – my favourite being the lavender lotions! The owners are also dedicated to environmentally sustainable agriculture and are part of the ALUS program.
Those are some great recommendations! Thanks for chatting with us, Nicole.