Recently, myself, several colleagues, and a representative from the City of Kamloops attended a workshop by Wayne Roberts, who is one of the founding members of the Toronto Food Policy Council. Full nerd disclosure here, it is one of my greatest pleasures to spend time with people who also know the ins and outs of food policy work, so it was a joy to hear Wayne’s thoughts and musings on the future of food. The Toronto Food Policy Council was founded at the same time as the Kamloops Food Policy Council around 1995. We share a long history of negotiating policy advocacy, program development and the creation of partnerships with the intent of holding a vision for a food system that is healthy, local, accessible, and whole. Wayne encouraged us to think about food as a lever that can be used to address other issues: environment, social and economic.
In terms of how food can be used as a lever for environmental outcomes, we know that gardens in urban centres provide valuable ecosystem services such as fresh air, rainwater retention and a sense of community ownership over the space that results in less littering. In Kamloops, we have many beautiful community gardens that host pollinators, provide greenspace, and produce fresh veggies for those who tend them. Further, 1 in 6 car trips are related to delivering or purchasing food. By creating food systems like community gardens, that are woven into neighbourhoods, we can impact issues like traffic and congestion, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Food brings us together, and in a world of polarization and political divide, breaking bread with a group of people can be the glue that we need to make inroads into social cohesion. There is a loneliness epidemic in our society — more seniors and people of all ages are eating alone than ever before. Programs like the Mount Paul Community Food Centre, as well as the Kamloops Food Policy Council potlucks, are a great opportunity to celebrate eating together as a community. adrienne maree brown, the author of Emergent Strategies, a book I am loving reading right now, quoted Grace Lee Boggs, who said, “Building community is to the collective as spiritual practice is to the individual.”
I believe that food has a key role in this vital and sacred act of building community. Wayne reiterated this idea that being in touch with food and each other around the table is part of self-actualization; it’s more than nutrients, food is about bonding.
Finally, food can be a catalyst for a healthy local economy. The concept of economic multipliers relates to how money cycles through a community. When you spend money at the farmer’s market, the farmer is likely to take the money you gave her and use it to purchase something else in the community, and the benefit of the money to the community is therefore “multiplied.” When you spend money at a big box store, some of it goes to employees, but much of the profit is returned to shareholders. These types of transactions have a lower multiplier effect. Food has an economic multiplier of 1:5, which is the highest among all the major industries. For every dollar you spend on local food, the benefit to the community will be five-fold. The Kamloops Food Policy Council is working to support local food businesses in processing and packaging local food that can be sold throughout the winter, and developing speciality products that increase our local food economy.
In summary, food is a key ingredient for how our culture is created. Wayne highlighted for us the ways that food can be a lever and a catalyst for making a community more livable, friendly, economically viable, and green. Food not only creates culture, but can be culture too. To learn more about how the Kamloops food network is creating a culture of change in the food system, please come to our monthly potlucks, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on the first Wednesday of every month (except January), at the Mount Paul Community Food Centre, 140 Laburnum Street.
Adapted from a Cultures for Health recipe (www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-kohlrabi-pickles-dill-mustard) .
• 1 handful of fresh dill
• 2 Tbsp. salt
• 1½-2 cups of water, as needed
• 3 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into spears
• Cloves of garlic cut in half
1. Place fresh dill and garlic in the bottom of a quart jar.
2. Combine water and salt; stir to dissolve.
3. Pack kohlrabi spears on top of the herbs and spices, leaving 1½ inches headspace.
4. Cover vegetables with brine, adding more water as needed to cover, but leaving 1 inch headspace.
5. If necessary, weigh the vegetables down under the brine.
6. Cover each jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
7. Culture at room temperature (15-20°C is preferred) until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure.
8. Once the vegetables are finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to cold storage. The flavor will continue to develop.