Reflecting on three decades of food security in Kamloops

Longtime public health dietitian Laura Kalina is retiring and reflects on what has been accomplished

After 32 years with Interior Health, public health dietitian Laura Kalina is retiring. The community is invited to a retirement celebration on Wednesday, May 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Mount Paul Community Food Centre, 140 Laburnum St. in North Kamloops. Those attending are asked to bring a dish to share. Here, Kalina reflects on her work, which included regular columns in Kamloops This Week, and on how far the community has come in the past three decades in the area of food security.

When I arrived in Kamloops in 1987, my initial work was with the Kamloops Food Bank and women in low-income households.

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It was during this time that community kitchens were launched as a means to stretch the food dollar and Kamloops this Week covered those stories, announcing the new program in Kamloops.

(I still have the newspaper clippings.)

Mayor Ken Christian presents the city’s Overlander/Pioneer Spirit Award to Laura Kalina in 2018. The award is presented in exceptional circumstances and for extraordinary accomplishments. Kalina was honoured for her “vision, dedication and tireless efforts to improve community health through better nutrition for all.”

Building on the success of community kitchens and wanting to increase access to fresh, healthy food, the community garden program was expanded in the early 1990s. At that time, there was only one community garden on Tranquille Road. Today, there are 18 in the city and on the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc reserve.In 1994, farmers, non-profits, churches, community members, anti-poverty groups and local government came together for a first time ever, meeting at the Food Day Forum.

Then-mayor Cliff Branchflower opened the day and our goal was to increase food security for all Kamloops residents. In 1995, I helped create the country’s first grassroots food policy council, which created many programs and partnerships, including Gardengate Training Centre, Kamloops Food Share and Public Produce.

One of the greatest successes was achieved in 2015 with creation of the Food and Urban Plan for the City of Kamloops. This put Kamloops on the map as the first community in British Columbia to have a food policy.

A more recent success is the Gleaning Abundance program, in which volunteers venture out and pick fruit from trees that would have otherwise gone to waste. The recycled fruit is now being used in a Popcycle social enterprise, with the fruit being used to make popsicles for local events.

More recently, through a strong research partnership with Thompson Rivers University, the Nourish conference was held, with household food insecurity the focus.

I joined others in starting this work in 1987 and note we are coming full circle, with many more players at the table — from a half-dozen in 1987 to a conference room of more than 80 in March.

It has been a major highlight of mine to see the momentum around food security continue and to know my vision of Kamloops achieving food security will be carried on by the Kamloops Food Policy Council and the amazing leadership of all the groups in town. All of this work during the past three decades has created long-lasting projects and legacies.

I want to thank the support of the local media for getting the word out, the City of Kamloops for all its support and the people of Kamloops for their enthusiasm and willingness to embrace all the food action over the years.


© Kamloops This Week


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