Week 3 of our convenience store project

Our convenience store project is in Week 3 now!


Find our Week 3 Brochure here, where there is information and tips about Meal Planning for your family!

And don’t forget if you’re in Kelowna you can join in the fun by visiting the Mac’s Store at 1007 Rutland Road, purchasing a green footprint item and entering the free prize draw to win a $25 gift card.

Everyone is welcome to join the Healthy Together Convenience Store Celebration on June 19th at 3:00 PM.

Follow the footprints…our convenience store project is in full swing!

The Bridge Youth & Family Services is now running a pilot project to learn more about how convenience stores can promote and support healthier food choices for families.  We have teamed up with our local Mac’s Store (1007 Rutland Road North, Kelowna) and the Western Convenience Store Association to run a 10 week pilot project with 12 families.

Every Monday we’ll be providing the families and store customers with brochure containing nutrition tips, an activity idea and a new recipe to try at home.

All around the local store you will see these…

When you see this symbol on a shelf you know this is a product that has been identified as “healthier” for you than other items you might find in the store.

HT Convenience Store Kelowna

Choose these items anytime if you want to pick things that are lower in sodium, sugar, additives and unhealthy fats than some of the other items you would find in the store.

If you are in the Kelowna area please join in the fun! Visit the Mac’s store at 1007 Rutland Road and when you purchase a green footprint item just ask for a ballot to enter the free draw to win a $25 gift card! And everyone is welcome to the Healthy Together Convenience Store Celebration on June 19th at 3:00 PM

Check out our Week 1 Brochure here!

If you have any question about this project please contact:
Michele Hucul – Project Coordinator, Healthy Weights for Children

Our 1 year project update

We are nearly at the completion of first year of Phase II – Healthy Weights for Children Project. It has been a very exciting year in terms of milestones achieved as well as lessons learned from round one implementation of Healthy Together program in five sites across Canada. As we officially close this year, we are happy to share our accomplishments with you.

  1. Welcome New Member to National Advisory Committee (NAC) -We are pleased to welcome Paul Gowan, Executive Director, BC Association of Family Resource Programs (FRPBC). We truly appreciate Paul’s willingness to join the NAC and look forward to his input and guidance as we move forward in our project. Marianne Drew-Pennington retired from the position earlier this year. A big ‘Thank you’ to Marianne for her hard work and commitment to the NAC. Please find attached the updated NAC contact list for your records.
  2. Healthy Together Implementation- First Five Sites – The first five sites have successfully completed round 1 implementation of Healthy Together program within their communities. Some of the sites started the implementation immediately after the September 2013 train-the trainer, while others started the implementation as late as January 2014, based on staff availability, participant recruitment, program space and other factors. Follow up sessions (6 month and 1 yr) will be carried out by in the upcoming fiscal year. We wish to thank each and every one of these sites for their continued interest and commitment in assisting us with implementation and evaluation of Healthy Together program with children and families across Canada.
  3. Site Visits- Summary of Observations – The HWC Project Coordinator visited each of the five implementation sites while they were implementing Healthy Together program within their communities. These site visits provided an excellent opportunity to not only observe the program in operation, but also to connect with site staff first hand, to share feedback on the content, process, lessons learned and adaptations which are valuable for future implementation of the program. See below the summaries for each site visit, but you can also check out the blog posts following each visit!
    • Immigrant Services, Calgary AB – Extremely well prepared for the content, activity and cooking sections for the session observed. Parents were eager to participate and shared their enjoyment of the program openly with Michele. Participants all completed their evaluation and wanted to make sure to share their ideas before they left. The group had a vibrant and engaged atmosphere and children and adults enjoyed their time together. Several people entered the room hoping to sign up for the program in January after seeing and hearing about it. A wonderful experience to participate in and observe.
    • Vista Family Resource Centre, Bonavista NL – The Healthy Together program was highly appreciated by families. They talked about how much they enjoyed new recipes, cooking, activities and meeting people. The group connection was clearly evident in the camaraderie, playfulness and familiarity group members had with each other, particularly in the 0-6 group. Families were very committed to the content and process of the group. Despite the difficulty of the first evaluation the families were interested in completing evaluations (except for 7-12 year olds) and seemed to take this aspect very seriously. The site evaluator had a very gentle and encouraging approach with families. Hosting this program in a family centre seemed to encourage a connection to the resource itself and the Healthy Together group had a comfortable feel for children and adults alike. Other people saw the program unfold as they were leaving previous groups and they were very interested in how to get involved in this type of group. The potential for integration of Healthy Together curriculum into existing groups is very promising for the 0-6 age group. The blend into current programming would be quite natural.
    • Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society, Smithers BC – Really nice integration of activity, content and cooking in the session depending on age group and dynamics.  The teens required a different approach than the 7 – 12 year olds and the facilitators did nice job of reading and meeting the needs of the group. Good use of the manual as a resource and guide. Referring to the manual and keeping the discussions informal seemed very sensible and appropriate for both groups. Atmosphere was casual and relaxed while also being purposeful and directed. Families and youth seemed calm and relaxed and very receptive to the activity, cooking and teaching. Nice conversation related to the program content during the cooking time. Participants would benefit from a folder or binder for their papers each week. Very innovative and meaningful partnership with the school district (alternative education program) for the 13 to 18 year old youth.
    • The Children’s Aid Society of Brant, Brantford ON – Very strong facilitation and evaluation skills demonstrated. Each group closed with Bingo using food or health words often from the Healthy Together curriculum. Bingo provided a way for learning to be integrated in a fun and impactful manner. The prize for Bingo was games and leftover food which was a great wrap up and ‘bonus’ activity for families. Posters of previous content available at cooking stations to ‘remind’ families of the information from previous sessions was a creative and great use of program materials. Food bags and recipes as a take home a wonderful way to carry the learning into the home after each session. The set-up of the room with personalized placemats with pictures and key messages a very appealing visual tool as well as personally meaningful for participants. The creation of an activity centre where kids could go and do a craft or activity as an alternative to the cooking was very effective. The group I observed used bean bag making as this activity. The bean bags were then used in the physical activity section of the course. Staff laminated the activities and put them on a ring. Every family took this home at the end of the session. The families showed a really nice connection to each other; staff fostered a group atmosphere that allowed for the relationship building to shine. Really liked the idea of having “smoothie day” as a way to attract potential participant families, tell them about Healthy Together and have them sign up if they were interested. Use of high school home economics rooms for space was an outstanding idea.
    • The Centre for Northern Families, Yellowknife NT – Nice literacy focus and awareness. Explanation of words, out loud practice with pronunciation. Use of flip chart was relevant and really added to the session. Facilitator strengths well used- they were very energetic, good speaking voice and fun; well versed in health issues they had investigated and added good information to illustrate points. One learning was regarding the information that did not always translate well in the 7-12 group for the youth. This was because the parents were absent (except for 1 family) and the content was intended for families not children attending alone. Overall participants were enjoying themselves a great deal. The children were very engaged in the well facilitated games. Staff shared the unique circumstances in Yellowknife related to non availability of fresh, affordable food and the content adaptations related to these conditions. The Bridge will take this information and consider how to acknowledge and support the circumstances in Northern communities related to culture and geographic diversity.
  4. Evaluation Summary – Preliminary Findings and Lessons Learned – Please find attached the Evaluation Summary, highlighting preliminary findings from year one implementation in first five sites. Please note:  the cut off date for receiving data was Feb 2014, in order for the Evaluation Team to analyze and prepare this year’s evaluation report.  Hence these findings are based on partial data forwarded by some sites, while other sites were in the process of continuing with program implementation. The full report from this year’s implementation sites, plus preliminary findings from the next set of implementation sites will be included  in next year’s evaluation report.
  5. Knowledge Development and Exchange (KDE)
    • Collaborative Healthy Initiatives – We are initiating the Healthy Convenience Store Coupon Pilot in Kelowna, in collaboration with the Western Convenience Stores Association. This is a family-centred project with the focus to promote and increase healthy eating choices and awareness for youth who may be shopping at convenience/ corner stores. This initiative will run from April to June of this year. Initial findings will be shared with the Association for their review.
    • Conference Presentations –
      • The Project Team provided a themed oral session at the Fourth International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society held in Vancouver, March 2014.
      • The Project and Evaluation Leads are invited to present an oral session on HWC Project and its key partnerships, at the Communities in Motion: Healthy Kids for Better Futures Symposium in April 2014. This symposium is organized by Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention and Okanagan Sustainability Institute, UBC’s Okanagan campus, and Interior Health.
      • The Project Team has been accepted to present a themed workshop on Healthy Together at the 2014 Public Health Conference, Toronto in May 2014.
    • 2014 KDE Meetings/ Visits – Although initially The Bridge was selected to coordinate the 2014 National KDE Forum, this was cancelled by PHAC. In place of the National Forum, they suggested individual projects to utilize allocated resources to visit other national projects or participate in relevant KDE activities, with the focus on knowledge sharing and partnership building. So in upcoming months, the HWC project and evaluation teams will visit two National Projects (Nova Scotia and Ontario) to maximize learnings and identify opportunities for future expansion.

To view and/or download the full report please click here – HWC Project Update March 2014

Corner stores and the keys to a healthier future

As the The Bridge Youth & Family Services Healthy Together team embarks on a new pilot project in collaboration with Western Convenience Stores Association, their President; Andrew Klukas explains more about the project’s background;

WCSA New Logo copy

Last summer I was researching several US programs designed to make nutritious foods available in areas that are under-served by large grocers.  These programs have intrigued me because they view corner stores part of the solution to an epidemic of obesity.   I was seeking inspiration for a program that would make it possible for Canadian convenience stores to participate meaningfully in such programs north of the border.

Why convenience stores?  It may come as a surprise to many that there are over 23,000 convenience stores in Canada, and that each day the number of visits to these sites is equal to one third of the population.  This gives the industry as a whole tremendous reach throughout the patchwork of communities spanning the country.

Moreover, a recent Globe and Mail article – Corner stores mean solid neighborhoods  – discussed research findings indicating that the presence of corner stores can make neighborhoods more humane, and that the presence of a corner store can be “…a sign that things are in balance.”

Yet corner stores have been disappearing from many residential neighbourhoods.  Many of those that survive within these neighbourhoods do so by adding foodservice to their product mix.  These storeowners make do on very small profit margins and need to be highly responsive to consumer demands.   How then can they help lead a transition toward healthier food choices?

I was looking for answers to that question when I discovered the work of the Bridge Youth & Family Services Society’s Healthy Weights for Children Project.  When I met with their staff it was immediately clear that convenience stores and corner stores can play a pivotal role in the success of the long-term obesity reduction strategy that the Bridge supports.  They understand obesity is a very complex societal issue – one that requires a creative and dynamic response and includes participation and support from a broad spectrum of forces that influence people’s choices and behavior.

A pilot project involving one store and ten families launches next week on April 22 and will run for ten weeks.  It is intended mainly to support a broader conversation that we are all interested in:

  • How can we support families and individuals in their own community to make choices that support their health?
  • How can we support businesses to begin the health promotion relationship with new customers while they retain current customer satisfaction?
  • How can we engage those who supply the industry – manufacturers and distributors?

The initial goal is to generate both questions and answers to support a second phase.  Our goal for phase 2 is to start involving all parts of the industry—retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Although corner stores will continue to sell traditional confectionery and sugar sweetened beverages, there is a wave of new, healthier products coming to market with profit margins that equal or exceed the margins on the traditional products. Our role as an industry association is to help tie all of the groups together and expedite the transition to healthier products and consumer choices.

Our hope is that if we can positively influence people’s shopping habits at a young age, then when they are 30 or 40 they won’t be the facing the spectre of the obesity-related illnesses that people today are facing at that age.  It’s a long-term vision, but the future starts today and I sincerely believe we can make a difference.

We have re-branded the Bridge’s Healthy Together Children’s Health Program as the Healthy Together Convenience Store Program and are using the same visuals. The footprint concept is intended to resonate with both the concept of physical activity, allowing future synthesis with similar campaigns promoting obesity reduction through activity, and, more remotely, to resonate with the concept of ‘environmental footprint’ so this is a good fit with the broader vernacular of health, fitness and healthy living.

What I learned from my initial research of a somewhat similar US is that for programs like this to be successful,  we need to:

  1. Build relationships with storeowners.
  2. Start small.
  3. Phase activities.
  4. Make it easy.
  5. Provide support.
  6. Collaborate with others.

So far we’re getting it right and I have been singularly impressed by the commitment and intelligent support from the people at The Bridge. This is ultimately their project but we share the same vision, and so I’m hoping we will be able to reciprocate our support for a long time to come and to capture many others with the same vision.

~ Andrew Klukas, President Western Convenience Stores Association

Site Visit to Yellowkinfe, NT

All five site visits are now complete. I travelled to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories at the beginning of March where The Centre for Northern Families implemented the Healthy Together Program.

Yellowknife CNF - Michele a

Michele outside the Centre for Northern Families in Yellowknife

Thankfully the temperatures reached -15 to -25 and I was able to stay warm with many layers of clothing. A very warm thank you to Caroline, Margaret, Faith and families at the Centre for Northern Families for hosting our visit and sharing their 0-6 and 7-12 Healthy Together groups with myself and Anima. In between the group learning, we watched a wonderful game of clothes pin tag and watched Faith Woodruff in action as she shared one of her adaptations…she created a great “did you know” game about pita that she entertained the children with during the meal. It was a fun and creative way to combine nutrition, learning and engage a group of 7-12 year olds as they waited patiently for their turn to serve themselves food.

airport bear 2a

We were greeted at the Yellowknife airport by this magnificent polar bear!

Who asks the questions?

The Healthy Together program is fully up and running in five sites across Canada. While these sites are busy providing the program to clients, the UBC evaluation team is working closely with evaluators at each site to collect data so we can ask the some important questions. These questions are vital to determine the future of program and include:

  1. Does the Healthy Together program positively impact caregivers and children’s healthy eating and physical activity behaviour?
  2. Does the program help foster strong relationships within families?
  3. Is this program something that other community sites would be able to run in the future?

So, who are this mysterious evaluation team? We`d like to introduce the team from the University of British Columbia who will be working closely with the Bridge to evaluate the Healthy Together program over the next few years.

From left to right: Dr. Mary Jung; Jessica Bourne; Lola Popova; Katie Weatherson

Without a doubt our captain on this team is Dr. Mary Jung. Mary is an Assistant Professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and director of the Health and Exercise Psychology Laboratory. Mary’s research focuses on the application of theory in the promotion and adherence to various health behaviours. Specifically, she is interested in the importance of self-regulation required to adhere to physical activity and healthy eating behaviour. An additional research interest of Mary’s is the evaluation of health promotion initiatives, such as Healthy Together, designed to increase physical activity and healthy eating behaviours. When Mary is not working she can be found playing with her 4-year-old daughter or hitting up an exercise class.

Our second key team member is Dr. Susan Wells. Susan is an associate professor at the University of British Columbia with a joint appointment in Social Work and Psychology. Susan is the senior consultant on this evaluation project and provides guidance to the evaluation team when required; she could be considered our coach.

We also have some fabulous students/volunteers from the University of British Columbia on our team. First, we have Katie Weatherson, a 4th year Human Kinetics student. Katie became a member of the Healthy Together evaluation team, as she was interested in learning about the process of health program evaluation and developing new research skills. Her role on the team is to transcribe interviews coming in from site directors and the national advisory committee. In addition, she has single handedly mastered some new and complicated software that we require to analyze these interviews. Katie has also been examining the implementation of the program across the current sites based on observation reports coming in from on site evaluators. Outside of school, Katie enjoys being active and cooking meals with friends and family.

Second, we have Megan Mandryk, our volunteer on the evaluation team who brings with her a BSc in Psychology. Megan has been the integral in setting up the Healthy Together evaluation database. Specifically, all questions that we ask individuals to complete have to be entered into a computer in a meaningful way so that individual’s responses can be examined before, during and after the program. Megan has developed the system that allows us to meaningfully enter responses and will, in the future, allow us to examine the effectiveness of the program on positively impacting participants healthy eating and physical activity behaviour. Megan began volunteering with the team as she wanted to keep her feet wet in research while working a full time job, Megan has enjoyed research so much that she has recently applied to undertake her Master’s degree in Neuroethics in Vancouver.

Third, we have Lolita Popova, a 2nd year Business and Management student. Lola came on board with the evaluation team due to her superior organization skills. Now in her 8th month with the team, Lola is solely responsible for all quantitative data entry into the Healthy Together evaluation database.

Finally, there is Jessica Bourne. She is the evaluation coordinator on this project and have worked in the Health and Exercise Psychology Laboratory for 2 years now. Her role is to help keep everyone on task and ensure that the team’s questions are answered and deadlines are met. When she not working in the lab, she can be found biking or walking in the mountains.

As they continue to collect, enter and analyze data from sites across Canada they hope to provide you with glimpses of what results are coming out and what this means for the program.

– Jessica

Site Visit to Brantford, ON

Staff Photo
The Healthy Together Staff

For my fourth site visit I had the pleasure of going to Children’s Aide Society of Brant in mid-February…an entertaining and satisfying experience in a province socked in with more winter than I can ever recall. Despite snow drifts and cold temperatures I enjoyed myself in the middle of a wonderful team of people and I was easily able to shut out the winter as I watched the Healthy Together Program for the 7 to 12 age group.

I tried it!
Some success stories – each week participants were encouraged to complete a quick ‘I Tried It’ rosette.

A few highlights I thought I would share with others…

  • The program was run out of the home economics room of a local high school…a wonderful venue for this age group. There were four fully stocked cooking centers along with tables, chairs and space for education. The gym was a short walk away and provided the activity space.
Table set-up
The Tables ready for participants, including fruit for snacks as they arrive!
  • The group concluded with a rousing round of BINGO using Healthy Together words and prizes of games being offered to the first two lucky winners. One lucky person won a bag of grated cheese as it was a leftover food item! A great way to provide a family connection activity for home and an opportunity to wrap up and integrate the learning in a fun way. This can provide a time to have an informal discussion about the words as they relate to the session. The games were bought as part of program supplies.
Some of the flip chart work the participants were working on

Next stop…Yellowknife for March 4 & 5th!

Site Visit to Smithers, BC

I was pleasantly surprised when my plane landed in Smithers BC…the beauty of the mountains was breathtaking as I woke in the morning to brilliant sunshine and snow capped peaks.

Smithers (pop. 6000) is located in the Bulkley Valley of northwestern British Columbia, on the Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway (Route 16), approximately half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Smithers was in week 5 of their program with the focus on Family Traditions, Healthy Community and Healthy Together for Life. My experience at this session highlighted some of the common themes I have experienced at each site visit.


The participants LOVE the cooking portion of the program and enjoy trying new and healthy recipes. There was willingness and enthusiasm from all age groups for tasks ranging from dicing and mashing sweet potatoes to layering parfaits. The participants also actively participated and enjoyed the discussions as the group unfolded.

As an outsider for each site visit I have seen how every group has been different in style and content emphasis based on cultural, geographical and facilitator driven adaptations, but the outcomes of cooking enjoyment and discussion interest remained high.


Smithers had a wonderful range of activities that were outside the box and very successful for their participants. They brought in a yoga instructor and physiotherapist for the youth group and I had the pleasure of joining for an introduction to Frisbee golf using actual Frisbee Golf Discs (which were then the take home for participants). I also joined a game of Up! with balloons and was surprised at how much we all moved and increased our heart rate while having fun.


The 13 to 18 youth group in Smithers has a unique story but I will save this for a future blog post created by the youth themselves…stay tuned!

Site Visit to Bonavista, NL

I joined the Bonavista team on November 12, 13 & 14 for their final celebration and wrap up week of Healthy Together with families.

Bonavista (population: 4,000) is a town on the Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland and is home to several historical attractions such as The Ryan’s Premises. Bonavista began as a sealing and fishing community and of course home of the puffin’s.

I was picked up in St. John’s and had a beautiful four hour drive to the community of Bonavista where I proceeded to spend three days at the Vista Family Resource Centre with the Healthy Together team and families.

Healthy Together Bonavista 2

One highlight of this trip was watching the staff take an idea for capturing successes and bring it to life. The staff created flowers and handed them out to participants to write one “success” they experienced during Healthy Together and then had the person mount this on the flip chart. This is a way to help participants ‘own’ their progress and could be done weekly as an visual way to capture success and watch them build over time.

Healthy Together Bonavista Family BoxAnother highlight was the wonderful activity bins that were assembled for families and sent home at the final session complete with a $25 gift card allowing families to purchase healthy food items to match their new healthier eating habits.

Healthy Together provided an opportunity in Bonavista for families to connect with the Vista Family Centre and each other in new and meaningful ways and this was clearly evidenced in the warm, playful and supportive relationships I witnessed as I joined families and staff in these final three sessions.

A very big thank you to the wonderful time I had with the Healthy Together crew in Bonavista!

Healthy Together Bonavista 1

Site Visit to Calgary, AB

I had the pleasure of my first site visit to Calgary this past month. I was welcomed by Calgary Immigrant Services staff and got a wonderful tour on one of their program facilities at the Genesis Wellness Centre which was a state of the art facility with many services for families including the YMCA, library and 1000 Voices programs.

Healthy Together in Calgary 2

I joined them as they facilitated the Healthy Together : Happy Healthy Beginnings program for children age 0 to 6 and their families. I watched a wonderful adaptation for the children allowing them to be in an “adult sized” kitchen.

Healthy Together in Calgary 3

The staff brought a small table into kitchen and the children ripped lettuce for pita pockets with enthusiasm and they cleaned the table with as dedication to the task.

Healthy Together in Calgary 4

The final table was a wonderful buffet of food created by the families for the enjoyment of all!

Well done Calgary on a wonderful program.

Healthy Together in Calgary 1