As the memories of empty grocery shelves and uncertainty about supply chains are still fresh in our minds, it’s a good time to think about what food system resilience is, and how we can move towards this as a community. The recent highway closures showed the relatively short supplies of fresh vegetables, milk, egg and other staples that our grocery stores can carry. While many people attributed the empty shelves to panic buying, in reality, our food system has moved towards to-the-minute supply chains. Our globalized system and consolidation of production and aggregation facilities that leave us very vulnerable to disruptions.
As climate change disasters become more and more frequent, there is an increased risk of larger scale shortages. Turning our attention and our minds towards local food can help to put some slack in our system and increase our ability to weather the potential supply chain storms ahead.
Our Kamloops Food Policy Council co-founder Laura Kalina always looked at the food system as a continuum- starting with emergency food, then community food security and then capacity building and policy change. The recipe for becoming more food resilient as a community lies in addressing all three of these areas on the continuum; through mutual aid, local food production and shifting to regional agriculture.
We need to start with disrupting the “us” vs “them” mentality. Many people were upset about alleged “hoarding” of food during the shortages, but it is important to remember that Kamloops’ population increased by 4% (3000+) with evacuees at the same time as the highways closed. All the evacuees were given grocery vouchers to spend at local stores to do an empty-fridge shop. One of the most important things we can do is to redirect our focus to mutual aid. It’s about helping others, but also learning how to communicate your needs. Sharing and trading are some of the most important activities for resilience in times of crisis. Knowing where food is being redistributed is helpful: a list of free food resources and community meals on our website: http://kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com/foodsecurity.
We are seeing many examples of how local food production increases the resilience of our system. When the grocery shelves were empty, there were still fresh veggies at our winter Farmers Market. We saw Blackwell Dairy milk stand out like an oasis in a deserted dairy aisle. Local farms were letting people know on social media they could come by if they needed food. Ultimately, the more local food in our bellies, the more we will be able to cope with disruptions in our supply chains. Let’s support local farmers and food business owners to make sure they are there when we need them again.
Shift to Regional Agriculture
One of our major focuses right now at the Kamloops Food Policy Council is developing a Food Hub: a processing facility that will allow local foods to be preserved so they are available year-round. This facility will be available for food entrepreneurs, farmers and community members to rent on an hourly or monthly basis.
Our City of Kamloops Food and Agriculture Plan now encourages front yard gardens instead of lawns, and it allows up to five backyard chickens per household. In Kamloops detached houses can have up to seven rabbits and more recently, bee hives. These measures and the policies that are in place to support them will come as a great comfort as eggs and other staples are in short supply in the grocery stores. Our Gleaning Abundance Program and the Butler Urban Farm are great ways to access fruit and vegetables from common space for free in the summer months. Food that can be preserved for the winter months.
Finally, we need to continue to push for provincial and federal policies and programs that protect and preserve farms that are producing for a local market, and to continue to move towards creating livelihoods that keep the food production sector in our region healthy and thriving.
We do not know what sorts of emergencies we may face in the growing uncertainty of climate change. However, what we do know is that how we prepare as a community will greatly enhance our self-sufficiency and resilience. The Kamloops Food Policy Council is intrepidly working towards our vision of a local regenerative and just food system, with a renewed sense of purpose and attention. To support our work visit kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com/support-our-work/ or call 778.870.9867.