This is part of what we discussed at the “Community Food Mapping” workshops/consultations I have been facilitating at both Whalley and Newton (Surrey, BC)
Why to worry about food? For many, this is related to health, for others, it is related to access, for some, the question doesn’t have any meaning: if you look at the supermarkets around us in Lower Mainland (BC), if you have a good job and no health issues, concepts such as “food security, food sovereignty and food resilience” may not resonate much.
However, this is an issue that concerns us all: do you know that BC produces only 55% of the food it consumes? Do you know that 95% of all the fruits and nuts consumed in BC are imported? That 75% of all the vegetables and 65% of the fish are also imported?
Most of the food we currently consume comes from US, China, Mexico and Chile (http://www.phsa.ca/HealthProfessionals/Population-Public-Health/Food-Security/default.htm)
Have you thought how any disruption in the food production, access to water or transportation in any of the above countries would affect our access to food?
Other factors affecting our food system are climate change and its impact on water and soil, a rapidly aging farmer population, cost of land, land ownership by foreign countries/corporations and decisions made on ALR (Agriculture Land Reserve) that may affect how much land is available to actually grow food.
This mini guide was developed to help you define some concepts about food, start conversations with your family, friends, neighbours and other members of your community and start creating changes to help you and your community become more food secure, resilient and sovereign.
Food Security: Food security exists when ALL members of our community have access to nutritious, safe, ecologically sustainable, and culturally appropriate food at all times.
Example: not having issues (such as financial, location, transportation, special diets food, etc.) affecting your family access to food.
Food Sovereignty: Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.~ La Via Campesina
Example: a neighbourhood, community or entire city defining how they want their agriculture system to be and what, where and how should be grown/raised in it.
Food Resilience: When a community, household or group develops flexible response, coping, and adaptation mechanisms in the presence of internal or external shocks. Example:
Example: your family, block or community has a back-up system for water and food essentials in case of disruption of the system (i.e. flood, drought, road closures, etc. either happening close to the area where you live or in the area where food is produced and/or stored)
Questions: how food secure, food sovereign and food resilient is your household? Your community?
- Do you and/or your community have real options about food (being able to eat what is healthy and appropriate for you and your family)?
- Can you walk to get the food you need (15-20 max distance)?
- Are you and the members of your household able to quickly adapt to a raw food diet?
- If the nearest store has to close of a staple becomes scare, do you have alternatives?
- Do you have enough food at home to supply for your needs for two months of the main staples in case of food system disruption?
- Does your neighbourhood/household have a garden where to grow vegetables, nuts and fruits?
- Does anybody in your household and/or community have knowledge and experience growing food?
- Does anybody in your household/community have knowledge about wild edibles/foraging?
Questions: how ethical are your household/community food choices?
- Think about all the meals you take in a day/week: what are the ingredients and/or processes they involve?
- Do you know where the food you eat was grown, processed and transported?
- Do you know who grew and produced the food you eat? Are they paid liveable wages? How do they live?
- Do you know if this food was produced sustainably (using few inputs, organically grown and not abusing water nor grown in tree-cut areas)?
- Do you know what happens with the food you throw away?
What you can do
At household level:
- Grow food! It is easy, fun and rewarding and it can be done in yards, patios and balconies
- Get a plot at a community garden (if none exists, talk to your neighbours or co-workers and start one!)
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and/or a food co-op
- Meet the farmers who produce the food you eat and volunteer during the growing season to learn about food production
- Learn about the edible wilds and perennials existing in your community, when to collect them and how to prepare them
- Invite your neighbours and co-workers to potlucks. Learn to eat and prepare variety of foods
- Learn to eat more raw food
- Harvest rain water to use in your garden
- Visit local food markets
- Learn how to preserve food through canning, dehydrating, freezing, etc.
- Plan the food you buy/eat so there is no waste
- Stock non-perishable food to cover the needs of your family for at least two weeks (recommended: two-six months)
- Exchange food you grow with co-workers, friends and neighbours
- Compost your kitchen scraps
- If you have enough space, consider having chickens, goats, etc. (check regulations first)
At community level:
- Advocate for more community gardens and kitchens
- “Map” your food system: what programs and projects do you have in your community? What land is being used to produce food? What stores and restaurants are committed to sell sustainable, local and healthy food? What other assets does your community have around food?
- Encourage community potlucks: block parties to share food, recipes, food produced in backyards, ideas and projects to create a more resilient food system
- Encourage using abandoned land to create community gardens (many land owners may welcome your approach: they need to pay taxes and maintenance while their land is not in use. With a community garden on it, they ensure the land is being taken care of and their taxes may be reduced)
- Be alert and aware of decisions affecting your community food sovereignty: read the news, follow blogs, communicate with other community members…and if something is not right, write letters to community leaders, join campaigns and protect your food system
- Become a sustainable food champion: start with your example and share your knowledge with anybody who asks
Enjoy your food, value your food…