What better way to engage local stakeholders in a discussion on local food security than to invite them to dinner?
The Central Cariboo Community Food Hub (CCCFH) used their Soils to Cellars event, a film screening of the documentary film First We Eat, to generate even more discussion and engage the community further on local food security.
In addition to the question and answer period after the film screening, the food hub hosted a dinner event on Feb. 7 at Mr. Mike’s which brought together some members of the community to further discuss local food security.
Brianna van de Wijngaard, food hub project coordinator, led the event and invited a small group of food producers, foragers and people interested in food security to the dinner along with the film’s director Suzanne Crocker, to chat about choke points in local food production, market access and potential ways to begin addressing some of these issues.
She said the discussion generated “lots of new information that’s going to be really helpful going forward.”
The discussion went from 5:30 p.m. to about 9 p.m., and ranged from conversations around how producers can access consumers to a prolonged discussion around meat processing and other barriers to accessing locally-raised meat, an important topic in the Cariboo.
The region has the most Agricultural Land Reserve land in the province, according to the food hub’s project assessment, yet little of this food can be accessed by local consumers.
One of the ideas being explored to support local meat producers is the possibility of a mobile abattoir, something featured in the film First We Eat, which has enabled producers in the Yukon to provide locally-raised meat to local consumers.
Discussion questions at the dinner also included the higher cost of local food, and the need to educate consumers around this.
Grocery store food is being made cheaper in ways which do not represent the total societal cost of using cheap foreign labour, industrial agricultural practices, higher greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation and less stringent environmental standards in other countries. Storage was another important issue discussed, something which came up in the film as well. Many seasonal items in the Cariboo would need freezing, dehydration or canning in order to make use of all the available food. Access to a commercial kitchen for local producers was another idea the food hub is exploring.
Other topics they touched on included land use in terms of sustainable agricultural practices, fertilizer, Indigenous food sovereignty, and procurement, such as government or institutions purchasing local food for things like school food programs, hospitals and conferences.
CCCFH is working on a range of projects to address food security in the area and the discussions will help focus future projects.
“We have to really be strategic,” explained van de Winjngaard, noting the limited resources the food hub is working with.
“Of course we want to do it all,” she said. But she is excited to be looking towards the project’s third year, as now the foundation has been built for more tangible results the community can see.
“We’re excited for that part,” said van de Wijngaard.
Currently in their second year, the food hub has been working on building relationships and working with local and regional governments. They have completed a community-wide survey on student access to food in school and worked on food recovery projects to reduce local food waste as well as supported maintaining a local seed library. To learn more go to: https://www.wlspc.ca/food-hub.html or get in touch with Brianna van de Wijngaard at firstname.lastname@example.org
The group is now applying for a third year of funding and will be using the recent discussions and engagement to prioritize their projects to plan next steps.