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Food was an important part of Emily Mardell's life while growing up in Gillams

Emily Mardell and her daughter Cela were photographed looking for mussels for a GetJoyfull video shot in the Bay of Islands this past September.
Emily Mardell and her daughter Cela were photographed looking for mussels for a GetJoyfull video shot in the Bay of Islands this past September. - Dru Kennedy photo

Emily Mardell may be 5,000 kilometres from her grandmother, but when she makes her tea buns or turkey soup it’s like they’re all eating together.

For Mardell food is an important part of her life and something that connects her to her family and where she came from.

Now living in Edmonton, Mardell was born in Corner Brook and grew up in Gillams on the north shore of the Bay of Islands. She and her mother, Joy Burt, lived with her grandmother, Edna Wilson. Burt still lives in the family home and Wilson now resides in Corner Brook.

Mardell is a registered dietitian.

A graduate of Memorial University, she moved to Alberta for work in 2005 after she completed her graduate studies. What started out as a maternity leave position turned into a permanent position and she made her home there.

She’s married to Albertan Alex Mardell and the couple has two children, six-year old Cela and one-year-old Remi.

Besides working in public health services Mardell also runs a private practice, Food First Nutrition Consulting, specializing in family and sport nutrition.

A year ago, in February she founded GetJoyfull, which she describes as a movement that empowers families to reconnect with the food they’re putting on their tables.

“I’ve always loved food,” she said by phone earlier this week. But it wasn’t until she moved away that she realized that food was really the centre and foundation of everything, for how people connected to their communities, their friends, the land and sea and each other.

“I didn’t really realize that when I was living in it,” she said.

So, for her, GetJoyfull is about feeling connected to her food.

It’s also about connecting her children to where she came from, instilling some of those roots in them — teaching them about where their food comes from and skills related to food.

And it’s about helping others make that connection, too.

Her goal is to take the movement across the country through a series of food trips — to tell a food story in every province and territory.

In each location visited so far she’s connected with local growers, ranchers, fishermen or food producers who have an involvement with a food or product that is integral to that province, something that is unique to the area or just a staple.

“And then we learn about that product or that food. And then we also share the stories of the people that are doing it.

“We want to connect people in cities or people in urban areas who are a little bit disconnected from where their food comes from with the people that are growing it or making it.”

The trip is packaged in a video form includes lessons in how families can prepare it in their own kitchen.

Mardell is joined by Cela in the videos and their trips have included visits to a lentil farm, egg farm, turkey farm, bison ranch and a greenhouse.  

The videos are shared through the GetJoyfull website and all its social media platforms. They are often shared by local media and also by the partners they connect with on each project.

For Mardell the past year has been one of sharing the things that are most special to her and learning from other people how food has enriched and sustained their families.

“There’s something special about sharing, and owning and appreciating where you come from.”

Emily Mardell prepares to cook during a video shoot in the Bay of Island last September.
Emily Mardell prepares to cook during a video shoot in the Bay of Island last September.

She celebrated the one-year anniversary of GetJoyfull with the recent release of a three-part web series set in Newfoundland that was shot in late September.

In “Food is Legacy” she visited high school friend Rick Crane, who took them out to Woman Cove on his boat, Crane’s Legacy, for a beach boil up, recreating not only her childhood memories, but those of her grandmother.

“Food is Love” shows Cela and Mardell’s god-daughter and second cousin, Claire Brake, bonding over a love of baking.

“Food is Community” took them to her mom’s summer home in Rose Blanche where they put together a basket of goodies for a group working to restore an old church in the resettled community of Petites.

Mardell said every campaign is a call to action and to inspire other families to fill up on family time.

GetJoyfull also has a community mobilization component that includes plans to hold pop up kids cooking clubs, get involved with school gardens and sponsor school food field trips.


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