Job Title: Co-founder, Neighbourhood Bridges; Founder, Rejoice Nutrition & Wellness, Wishbone Wellness Inc.
Why She’s Top 40: She’s helping Edmontonians develop a holistic approach to health and well-being.
Joanna Brown’s experience growing up in a household affected by mental illness is what inspired her to obtain her bachelor’s degree in community rehabilitation with a major in disability and health studies. She realized there was a gap in the system that left families without the necessary support, and wanted to address that. “I really wanted to change future paths for other families,” says Brown. “If you have mental-health issues or a disability, you yourself can get the services, but then the family is really left on their own.”
She was working as a consultant when she got a call from Nicola Fairbrother. Together, the two of them co-founded Neighbourhood Bridges, an organization that helps to empower vulnerable community members and works with entire families in holistic ways. She was following her passion, but soon realized that, with the neverending focus on caring for others, she wasn’t caring for herself. “We wanted to be supportive to families, and that meant we were on call 24/7,” she says. “I didn’t take a day off. I had a bleeding ulcer. I started having anxiety. I just wasn’t doing well.”
She changed the way she was eating, as she wanted an alternative to the traditional route of taking medication, and found herself stunned at the results. However, she realized that many of the families at Neighbourhood Bridges would never be able to make the kind of changes she made. Inspired by the impact a whole-food diet could have, Brown went back to school to obtain a holistic nutrition diploma and certified raw foods chef designation, and started Rejoice Nutrition & Wellness.
Brown combines her passions by working with organizations like the Edmonton Food Bank and Food4Good to help make nutritious, whole foods accessible. While Brown has standard clients simply looking to improve their eating habits, Rejoice frequently works with individuals on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). She even started a bone broth company, Wishbone Wellness Inc., when she recognized that the options already on the market were too expensive for many of her clients.