As the Kamloops Food Policy Council celebrates 25 years as an organization, it’s been a time to look back on our roots, what we’ve accomplished, and also dream about what the next 25 years might look like.
Back in the early 90s, Laura Kalina, a newly graduated community dietician, was concerned about the household food insecurity she saw around her in Kamloops. She realized many people were struggling to make ends meet and had to choose between food, and rent or bills. Others didn’t have the skills and know-how to create healthy meals from scratch. Still others just needed some incentive to get inspired to cook for themselves. The Community Kitchens program was launched and became the first of many local programs aimed at increasing household and community food security.
A Community Garden was the next project, and through her work bringing those programs to fruition, Kalina began forming the network that would become the Kamloops Food Policy Council. The group, made up of concerned, dedicated people from business, government, non-profits, and the farming community began meeting once a month to share a potluck meal and work collectively on solutions to food insecurity. Kalina, together with Paula Rubinson, an organic farmer and one of the founders of the Kamloops Farmer’s Market, co-chaired the council and hosted our monthly potlucks for the first 20 years.
The KFPC inspires and establishes programming through a community development approach and many of the programs initiated by the KFPC continue to thrive today through our network partners. Others, like the Gleaning Abundance Program have remained under the KFPC banner and led us to become more formalized as an organization.
Today the KFPC is a registered charity with a collaborative leadership team, other seasonal staff, an elected board and a very robust network of members from Kamloops, including our volunteers, donors, and representatives from government ,and non-profit partner organizations. Our network meetings have become venues for sharing and learning about new developments in food security both locally and beyond. While we have developed and matured, we still retain our grassroots nature and try to honour our founders ideals.
The KFPC has become increasingly active in policy advocacy and implementation, which doesn’t sound romantic but in reality is sometimes what makes action possible. The KFPC helped promote the legalization of urban hens and urban bees, which have become key food security supports for many local households. We like to think of ourselves as a nimble organization - able to react in response to changing circumstances and community needs, and we strive to do that while keeping one eye on our vision and values to ensure we don’t stray from what we set out to do.
As with many other organizations, Covid 19 has been a game-changer. It has brought to the forefront something that we’ve known all along - that our food system is vulnerable, and in order to have food security we need to become more self-sufficient at the household level as well as regionally and nationally. Much of our work was already focused on those goals so it is gratifying now to feel this growing momentum around us. It’s a very exciting time to be working in food security.
Covid 19 was the impetus behind our latest project, the Butler Urban Farm, which has helped us provide emergency food supplies and also connected us to a whole new community of growers and volunteers.
Changing with the times has also meant learning about and supporting Indigenous Food Sovereignty and recognising the important role Indigenous organizations have to play in changing the way we view our food system and our environment. It has meant looking inward at how our organization may be perpetuating white privilege in the food system and how we might change that.
There is a lot of work to be done, but we are constantly encouraged by what we see around us, from urban hens popping up in every neighbourhood to regulatory changes at the provincial level. We know there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about, and are eager to learn about what folks are doing to increase food security.