Public taking the lead on food security (David Stott)

Public taking the lead on food security

Published: November 26, 2009 1:00 PM

What did we do this year to continue making our region a more food secure place to live?

In my Nov. 27 column, I looked at how the local food movement has gained roots on the West Shore. What we’ve done and where we need to go are an ever evolving process.

On the public education and media front, I am happy to report that during the spring to fall season this year, articles related to local food appeared almost every week in local media.

At the same time Gardens in Motion, our mobile demonstration garden, appeared at 11 different local events, offering ideas and information on food gardening and food related local activities.

One of those activities was the Island Chef's Collaborative's Defending Our Backyard food festival at Fort Rodd Hill in May, which saw thousands of people come out to sample local foods and learn about going local with food.

Meanwhile, the WestShore Centre of Learning and Training’s training garden on Sooke Road blossomed, inviting both student and community volunteer involvement while offering an excellent array of courses on gardening. And two screenings of a very persuasive documentary on food security and food production on Vancouver Island, Island on the Edge, were shown to appreciative audiences in Colwood and Metchosin.

These are some of the highlights of our year. What this is saying to me is that interest in local food, in many different forms, is becoming increasingly mainstream on the West Shore. Many different kinds of people are stepping forward to take part in whatever way they can, whether it be going out of their way to buy locally, starting a garden, organizing a group or an event, taking a course, etc.

However, it seems that the public, rather than our public institutions, have been stepping much more vigorously to the plate on local food matters.
For example, for the most part, our school systems have not yet actively engaged their students in this most fundamental and healthy of activities, by creating school gardens, offering information on local food choices or encouraging their students to explore the many healthy, social and scientific aspects of local food and food security.

And, with the exception of municipally supported activities such as Colwood Community Place by Colwood and the Goldstream market by Langford, most levels of government, from federal to municipal, have offered very little in the way of real, concrete support for local food security.

Despite high sounding words and statements, they have not acted in support of small farmers, have not helped establish community gardens or offered funding for local food initiatives and have not passed policies that encourage either producers or consumers to increase sustainable local food production.

But perhaps, as Gandhi once put it, “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” As we have seen this year, people are acting in many ways. At the West Shore Go Local Food Summit in March, one proposed activity was the formation of an West Shore inter-municipal local food task force. Is now the time, and is there an opportunity, for people in all the West Shore municipalities to begin actively working on this?

I would encourage anyone who eats and lives on the West Shore, if you are not already involved in one form or another of local food production there are so many things that you can do.

Take a little time, or spend a little more money to buy local (as one friend puts it, “If it’s not local, you’ve gone too far”).

Grow at least some of your own food — in my case, spending on average about three hours per week in season on my two modest gardens, I am able to get all the exercise I need and grow about 50 per cent of the food I consume in a year.

Or support the development of local food positive policies and actions with our public institutions. These are just three examples — there are more and they can be as simple as eating a locally grown apple or carrot a day to as demanding as starting a project, activity or initiative in your neighbourhood or municipality. I happen to think that the future of our eating on the Island depends on actions like these.

Finally, I should tell you that, after almost four years as food security co-ordinator for Capital Families, I am stepping down.

It has been a wonderful experience working with so many good people on numerous projects, and I plan on staying involved with food security activities on the West Shore.

Taking my place will be Jennifer Girard, a woman with a lot of relevant experience who I know will continue to maintain and build on the programs we have developed with the help of so many committed volunteers since 2006.

Don’t hesitate to contact her at Capital Families with your thoughts, concerns or ideas. Thank you for participating with me and for the opportunity to serve the community.

- David Stott is the former food security co-ordinator for the Capital Families Association. He has been an organic farmer in Metchosin and has created gardening and market garden training programs on the West Shore.

For more on Capital Families food security programs, see This is the second of two columns on food security issues on the West Shore

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