September Cool Drinks: How is Food Security being Achieved on the North Shore?
At the first Cool Drinks event of the 2014/15 season, Hannah Wittman introduced audience members to the concepts of food security, sovereignty and agrarian citizenship, while Margaret Broughton, Scott Rowe, and Rubina Jamal discussed specific projects aimed at improving food security on the North Shore, including the North Vancouver Food Charter and the Scaling up Food Recovery Project through Table Matters. Highlights of the presentations and follow up discussion are provided below.
Hannah Wittman, Associate Professor at UBC
Food sovereignty is “the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. To achieve this, it is essential to give priority to local and national cultures, markets and economies as well as the global food system. Like other countries, Canada struggles to attain a sustainable food system. An estimated 8-13% of citizens are considered food insecure and do not have access to healthy food. In addition, less than 1% of farmers make a sustainable living from this economic activity. Over the past 30 years, most receive $0 income from farming. The high price of land, initial investment costs, and limited income make it challenging for new potential farmers.
According to Hannah, greater agrarian citizenship is one way to improve food security. People need to become more engaged as citizens in the food system and policy development; advocate for community access to land and tenure rights from governments; insist on more social enterprises in the market such as CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmer’s markets and farm to school programs; and demand that the environment be considered in food policies (e.g. protection of biodiversity and ecologically sensitive areas). Recent examples of agrarian citizenship are La Via Campesina (The International Peasants Movement) and the growth in young farmer’s movements in Canada, including BC Young Farmers, Greenhorns, Farm Start, and Young Agrarians.
Margaret Broughton, Dietitian at Vancouver Coastal Health
An example of agrarian citizenship on the North Shore was the creation of the North Vancouver Food Charter in 2012/13 through the Table Matters Network, chaired by Margaret. A food charter is “a statement of values and principles to guide food policy decision-making at a local level. It is rooted in creating a just and sustainable food system, and cultivated in the community.” The 5 core principles of this charter are: 1) health, access & equity; 2) environmental responsibility; 3) government leadership & collaboration; 4) economic vitality; and 5) community, culture & education.
The content of the charter was developed through a qualitative research process during two meetings attended by individuals and organizations working on local food security issues, including municipalities, school districts, First Nations, VCH and community groups. The key themes that emerged from participant feedback formed the basis of charter. Moving forward, Table Matters will seek a formal endorsement of the charter at the North Shore Congress in the winter of 2015, institute specific projects in the community that align with the values of the charter, and create a North Shore Food Policy Council.
Scott Rowe & Rubina Jamal, Scaling up Food Recovery Project Coordinators at Table Matters
The Scaling up Food Recovery Project is one of many initiatives being implemented to improve food security locally and exemplify the vision of the preceding charter. According to Scott, 40% of food produced in our country is not eaten and/or becomes waste. This occurs because it is not sold to stores from farms, is not purchased by consumers in stores by best before dates, does not meet store food standards, or is partially consumed in homes before being transferred to landfills. Within Metro Vancouver, 40% of the total waste originates from industrial sources. By 2015, organic materials will be banned from landfills in the region. This new legislation and the preceding statistics present an opportunity to find other uses for food waste from industry, one of which is food recovery.
The Plan H Scaling up Food Recovery Project aims to rescue surplus, useable food from retailers and wholesalers and work with food distributors like food banks and other community organizations to circulate food to people in need. This is important considering more than 50,000 residents use food banks in Metro Vancouver, while 4 million individuals and 13% of households in Canada are food insecure. Before the project becomes operational in 1-2 years, a number of civic engagement and stakeholder workshops are planned over the next several months to solidify support for the initiative and establish a model project for other jurisdiction to hopefully replicate. Presently, municipalities, school boards, VCH, North Shore Recycling, and Metro Vancouver are all involved in Plan H; however, this could expand as the project progresses.
Questions and Comments from the Audience
Following the presentations, audience members posed some interesting questions to guest speakers, which provoked some engaging dialogue.
1. What can we do as citizens to protect the agricultural land reserve in BC?
About 80-90% of the ALR is outside of the Lower Mainland in zone 2 and is open for debate on how to use it. Thus, there are opportunities for BC residents to participate in engagement activities at the local and regional levels around the province
2. How involved is the broader UBC community in the university’s farm?
Approximately 50 faculty members from a wide variety of disciplines have used the community farm as a research platform and living lab for food related research ranging from seeds to final consumption. More than 3,000 students have been involved with the farm through different curricular activities such as community service, lectures and internships. Beyond this, a number of public engagement activities are held on the farm to promote dialogue on sustainable community development.
3. Are there any challenges that could impede the implementation of the Scaling up Food Recovery Project (SUFRP)?
According to the Project Coordinators, Metro Vancouver’s forthcoming organic ban highlights the need for a solution to food waste. Bringing a food lens to the issue of organic waste also helps to gain support for their project. Investing in a learning model that can be replicated elsewhere further helps to garner more buy in for the initiative. Therefore, challenges are not foreseen.
4. How is SUFRP dealing with potential structural and attitudinal barriers from the business community towards the project?
Thus far, there has been general support for the initiative. Workers wish to be more involved in humanitarian causes and businesses want to donate to the broader community when possible. Once food products are removed from a company’s inventory and no longer saleable, they are not eligible to receive a tax receipt for any food donations. Therefore, they are receptive to giving surplus food to the wider community to help citizens in need.
5. How do you expand school lunch programs on the North Shore to reduce food insecurity amongst children?
Presently, 6-8 schools have them in place. Support and interest can originate from the children and parents to create demand for them over time and spur administrative endorsement and funding. In an example provided by an audience member, the students in one school were taught to prepare the food and it was integrated into the curriculum.