Food Connections 2013

Food connects us all – to each other, to the earth, to other animals – yet there is growing concern over our society’s relationship with food and how it’s grown, distributed,  and consumed. Central to this larger discussion is the accessibility of food for all people. This was the underlying theme of this year’s Food Connections Gathering hosted by Island Health, Vancouver Island University, LUSH Valley Food Action Society, and many other community groups at the VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station Wednesday October 23, 2013.

Participants in our Community Engagement and Asset Mapping workshop

Participants in our Community Engagement and Asset Mapping workshop

Food security – ensuring access to appropriate and affordable food; and food literacy – the knowledge, skills, and behaviours needed to access food; were intertwined in discussions ranging from the sustainable seafood industry, to wildcrafting, to governance, to farming innovations. Representatives from various groups, organizations, and communities came together to create awareness, increase knowledge, and encourage action for food security on Vancouver Island.

Laurel and I were stimulated and engaged throughout the sessions and were able to take the freshness of the topic into our presentation on Community Engagement and Asset Mapping where we focused on the importance of building a solid base of understanding for engagement. Defining your community, determining who needs to be involved, the assets in your community, and understanding how stakeholders interact were central questions to the exercise in community engagement. By engaging with people from the top down, bottom up, inside out, and outside in you infuse ideas and action into your initiative. By building a base, you ensure that you have the right people at the right table at the right time.

The Food Connections Gathering was a great example of community engagement. Many people representing various food security initiatives, health networks, community officials, and members of the food harvesting and growing communities shared ideas and networks to strengthen food security on Vancouver Island. Every presentation was recorded for future viewing to further engage those who could not attend or for attendees who would have liked to have been in two sessions at once (like me).

As this network strengthens, it can continue to grow by connecting with other networks such as the transportation and tourism industries to increase the capacity of food security for all communities on Vancouver Island. The more people we bring to the table to discuss food, the more ideas and creative solutions will appear on our plates.