Developing solutions to ensure food security

March 23, 2006, vol. 35, no. 6
By Christine Hearn

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It's all about food. But those of us with too much to eat often give little thought to those with not enough.

Now 10 projects developed with SFU's continuing studies community education program are helping low-income communities develop creative solutions to ensure food security. The projects are part of the university's social justice series.

Food security includes access to adequate, appropriate, and personally acceptable food; ability to earn a living wage growing, producing, processing, handling, retailing, and serving food; maintaining the quality of land, air, and water; and using food to celebrate community and cultural integrity.

The project was funded with $10,000 from the Vancouver Foundation, $10,000 from Vancity, and $15,000 from the Ting Foundation. It focuses on alleviating poverty and improving local nutrition, supporting local agriculture and promoting education and policy change around food security issues.

Program director Debbie Bell says it was remarkable that each of the 10 projects moved beyond talk to action, and that each had tangible outcomes. "Initially we underestimated the community's desire to be involved, but we found that with a very little amount of money we were able to do a very significant program," says Bell.

Participants were encouraged to develop creative solutions to the challenges they face in building healthy food systems.

The projects developed had to serve as successful models for future solutions, work with existing groups, engage the public in discussion of food security, and train people from marginalized communities to work on food security issues.

Two cookbooks, were produced. Eating With Less Oil focuses on nutritional issues surrounding costly packaging, transport, and processing of food. Stone Soup Festival—10th Anniversary celebrates the annual East Vancouver event with recipes and stories.

The Richmond fruit tree project also grows vegetables on donated land. During a period of four years volunteers have picked or grown more than 53,000 pounds of food.

Also in Richmond, the Richmond grow-a-row project mobilizes community members to grow an extra row of vegetables for donation to the food bank.

The Victory Gardens Vancouver project, based on the Victory Gardens project in the U.S., links inner city residents with a rural gardening initiative so poor communities can take direct control of their own healthy food production.

The agricultural land reserve (ALR) protection and enhancement committee is working to protect the ALR through a brochure and postcards.

An informative comic book based on women and food issues has been created in collaboration with young teens and pre-teens.

The project also includes performances and workshops at various schools.

Other projects include production of a manual that will recover traditional Latin American plant knowledge, the Grandview/Woodlands Food Connection that is helping develop local food infrastructures and initiatives, and the herbal community kitchen project to help occupants of single resident occupancy hotels learn to make herbal medicines including cough syrup, healing salve and teas.

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