Powering UP in Edmonton: a Seafoodie Heads Inland

Guest Contribution by Jordan Nikoloyuk

Food Secure Canada’s Steering Committee Chair Eric Chaurette introduces the Energy, Resilience and the Future of Food panel. Photo: Food Secure Canada

Food Secure Canada’s Steering Committee Chair Eric Chaurette introduces the Energy, Resilience and the Future of Food panel. Photo: Food Secure Canada

At Ecology Action Centre, we talk a lot in the marine office about ‘fish as food.’ We puzzle over how to best connect with the local food movement in Atlantic Canada. How can we integrate fisheries issues into the sustainable food systems discussion (and what does that even mean)?

I can’t answer that question yet, but I did enjoy the VERY exciting opportunity to attend Powering UP! Food for the Future – the 2012 National Assembly of Food Secure Canada – earlier this month.

 •                Food Secure Canada is a big tent…

Food Secure Canada is a national member-based organization based on three core goals: Zero Hunger, Healthy and Safe Food, and A Sustainable Food System (including fisheries). Talk about a lot of different things going on! In just a few days we heard about topics ranging from: justice and equality in the local food movement, global commodity prices, seed sovereignty, investment and training models for beginner farmers, food security in rural and remote communities, evaluation concepts and tools to measure our impact, ‘land grabs’ in the global South, and more! Workshop summaries and presentations aren’t online yet, but they will be soon.

The sheer range of work being done by members of this organization is just amazing, and a little intimidating, and it’s going to take some thinking to figure out all the places that we can fit in.

 •                .. .but we have a lot in common!

I think seafood enthusiasts are a bit new to the FSC scene, but it’s incredible how closely aligned our concerns are. I see some incredible parallels between our work with fishers and FarmStart’s project to support new generations of ecological farmers, between our attempts to get more local seafood consumed in Atlantic Canada and the food hub  that  Just Food is building, and between our efforts to clarify marketplace confusions (/misinformation) and initiatives like Local Food Plus’s certification program . It’s not so easy as adding “…and seafood”, but finding a connection isn’t always going to be super-complicated.

•                We’re missing some things.

Just as often as I said “We totally have the same type of project / problem”, I had to say, “We’re totally missing out on this other thing.” In the near term I think there’s definitely a need and opportunity to engage with organizations like the Nova Scotia Food Security Network . And we should totally focus more work on the regulatory environment holding back small-scale processors that this month’s Ram’s Horn talks about.

•                Measurement matters.

This might seem intuitive, but it came up a lot at the Assembly. We – our whole movement – are able to make a HUGE impact on problems that people – and governments – actually care about. The food movement offers solutions to the health problems caused by eating unhealthy junk, and we can address rural economic challenges created when food producers can’t get fair prices. Our food security and food costing work can also have a major impact for people experiencing poverty or homelessness, and we can solve the environmental problems created by overfishing, fish habitat loss, chemical fertilizer dependency, soil degradation, etc., etc., etc.

I think that we usually think of these things – health impacts, environmental benefits, social goods – as being impossible to measure, but if we aren’t at least trying, we aren’t going to be able to persuade people how much our work matters.

•                The food was great!

Maybe it goes without saying, but one reason to love attending foodie events is the food. The FSC team organized a “Taste and Sounds of Alberta” event that combined a farmers’ market with a tasting feast with musical performances and a delicious meal (with one unfortunate prawn incident but it happily became a learning moment).

I’m on the Steering Committee of Food Secure Canada now, so you’ll be hearing a lot more about building on these

You can download a copy of the People’s Food Policy from http://bit.ly/K7cfpwY

You can download a copy of the People’s Food Policy from http://bit.ly/K7cfpwY

links in the future! In the meantime why not check out the People’s Food Policy and start thinking about how you think fisheries can get more involved?

One more thing- I forgot to mention the poem I heard at the Assembly, “Hunger is Inherited” by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon. Give it a listen I don’t have the words to speak to how moved I was. Be careful – its beautiful, inspirational and moving but seriously poignant.

Jordan Nikoloyuk is the Sustainable Fisheries Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre. He was invited to Edmonton as part of his work on Regional Food Systems supported by the JW McConnell Family Foundation.

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