NOURISH: What we learned about the upstream causes of hunger

The Kamloops Food Policy Council recently hosted a community dialogue that asked the question, “How can we address the root causes of household food insecurity?” Almost 90 people gathered together representing non-profit organizations, government, educational institutions and those with lived experience of household food insecurity. The event focused on two key themes: 1) Indigenous Food Sovereignty and 2) poverty as a root cause of food insecurity.

The day started with the Indigenous Food Sovereignty discussion between Randy Sam, Indigenous People’s Cultural Worker with the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Centre, Courtney Mason, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Communities at TRU, and Dawn Morrison, Founder, Chair and Coordinator of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Each of these speakers emphasized the need to decolonize in order to improve access to nutritious and traditional foods. They spoke about decolonizing in many ways:

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? The historic and contemporary legal system and the Indian Act, which are race-based laws designed to oppress and remove Indigenous people from their land;

? The regulations that National Parks impose on adjacent Indigenous communities whose access to traditional foods is cut off with the establishment of National Parks; and

? The production paradigm of a capitalist economy, which commodifies the natural systems that have fed Indigenous people for thousands of years and also allows all of us to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

We learned about several hopeful initiatives, including Indigenous Protected Areas which are managed by the Indigenous communities whose traditional territory they are on. We also heard about an emergent model for an Indigenous Food and Farm school that will create space for land-based education on food systems. Most of all, we learned about the need to listen to each other, recognize our connectedness, as well as build relationships and respect.

In the afternoon, the discussion around poverty was led by Cynthia Travers, the voice of the homefree in Kamloops, Trish Garner, from the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, and Melanie Kurrein, the Food Security Manager for the Provincial Health Services Authority. In this dialogue, we learned about the impacts of household food insecurity, including:

? mental and physical health challenges,

? distress in a family unit, and

? the feeling of rejection among those who are seeking help.

We were encouraged to “think upstream” to determine why so many people are falling into poverty. It was also important to look at balancing shorter-term emergency food solutions, like soup kitchens or food hampers, with efforts to address the longer term leverage points, such as poverty reduction strategies and advocacy, affordable housing, and higher minimum wages. The speakers cited research and examples that show that people living in poverty do not lack budgeting skills, nor cooking skills, to any greater extent than people with more income. They are simply in a situation where often the only food they can afford, or are given, has low nutrition density.

The day ended with an open space where participants pitched ideas for action that would help to address the root causes that we heard about from our speakers. The ideas were inventive, innovative, and ranged from discussions about basic income advocacy to agriculture therapy for supported housing to parent and child school food cooking programs. I was thrilled to see the energy and ideas that people brought to the table. There was also much gratitude for the speakers who brought important truths and for the conversations about how to creatively and positively disrupt the status quo to achieve long term food security for more people in our community.

For more information about Nourish, or to read the event report (coming in late May), please visit or kamloopsfood

Join us at our next Network Meeting and legendary potluck! Wednesday, May 1, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Laura Kalina’s Retirement Celebration.

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