Archive for the ‘Blog Entry 3’ Category

By Georgia Campbell

The collapse of our BC sockeye salmon population this season has created an extreme problem for First Nations food security and for the provincial economy.  BC’s Fraser River this August expected 10.6-13 million sockeye salmon returning to natal spawning grounds (Hume 2009).  Only 1.7 returned (Ibid).  The collapse caused sockeye fisheries on the Fraser River to close in July, causing a serious problem for First Nation’s communities who relay on salmon for sustenance (Karp 2009)—and have done so for thousands of years (Bottom et al 2009).  Ernie Crey, an advisor for the Stó:lo Tribal Council states that “most Indians who live in the Fraser watershed are low-income or poor… the fishery is their principal source of dietary protein” (Karp 2009).  This year our province lost over 8,000 tonnes of sockeye salmon (Akin 2009).  Prime Minister Stephen Harper in response has recently ordered an inquiry into the matter to uncover the cause of salmon depletion (Ibid).  Although there are probably numerous factors, one principle cause appears to be warming ocean temperatures (Ibid).

BC’s Fraser River watershed drains almost one-third of the province, extends from the Rocky Mountains to the mouth in Vancouver, and spans a distance of 1,400 km (Rand et al 2006).  The Fraser River is the largest salmon-producing river system in Canada (Farrell et al 2008), and the largest producer of sockeye salmon in the province (Rand et al 2006)—economically the most valuable salmon species in BC, and the second most abundant (Cox & Hinch 1997).

All wild salmon are born in freshwater rivers, such as the Fraser, where sockeye salmon in particular remain for the first 2 years of their life (Cox & Hinch 1997).  The salmon then migrate to the ocean and spend typically the next 2 years of their life migrating northward to the Gulf of Alaska (Ibid).  Once mature, the salmon use precise homing skills to return to the Fraser River and their natal streams to spawn (Cox & Hinch 1997; Rand et al 2006).  Upon entering the Fraser River salmon cease feeding and relay on energy reserves to make it up the river (Ibid).  After spawning the salmon die, usually resulting from complete exhaustion (Ibid).  Because sockeye salmon only spawn once in their lifetime, it is crucial that they succeed in their homeward migration in order to propagate.

For this migration, sockeye have an optimum temperature of 15ºC (Farrell et al 2008).  But, with climate change some sockeye salmon runs are experiencing temperatures in excess of 19ºC—a temperature at which no salmon run has ever historically been successful (Ibid).  Further, global circulation models predict an increase in temperature of 2-4ºC in the next 50-100 years (Rand et al 2006), virtually making salmon survival impossible, as salmon have a 5-day lethal temperature of 22ºC (Crossin et al 2008).

At present levels however, our salmon populations can barely sustain themselves.  With increasing temperatures salmon’s metabolic rates increase (Ferrari et al 2007).  Heart-rate increases, oxygen consumption increases (Farrell et al 2008), and they burn more energy than they would at optimum temperatures (Ibid; Crossin et al 2008).  Often, this results in energy deficiencies and many salmon have begun to die of exhaustion before even making it to spawning grounds (Crossin et al 2008).  Further, those that do make it to spawning grounds are often so energy depleted that they either die, or fail to have enough energy to produce sperm or eggs for reproduction (Farrell et al 2008).

An increase in temperature also causes an increase in disease (Rand et al 2006; Ferrari et al 2007; Crossin et al 2008).  In warmer waters salmon are more susceptible to numerous diseases involving parasites and fungi than in cooler waters (Ibid).  These diseases can cause kidney failure, respiratory failure, fungal infection, and eventually death (Crossin et al 2008).  Further, infection increases death by exhaustion, as infection can cause increased energy depletion through increased stress levels and thus increased metabolic rates (Ibid).

Although raising temperatures may not be the only factor depleting the sockeye salmon stocks, it is certainly a contributing factor.  We can only hope that this misfortune can act as an aid in highlighting the urgency at which our country needs to fight against climate change and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.  Currently, our country has continued to decline in performance in air quality, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions (Galloway 2009), posing a serious threat to our environment, our economy, and our food sovereignty.  It is time for our country to step up, and do something about our climate problem—for our fish, our economy, and our people.


Akin, David. 2009. Judicial inquiry to examine B.C. salmon loss. The Province, online, 5 November 2009. <http://www.theprovince.com/news/Judicial+inquiry+examine+salmon+loss/2188822/story.html&gt;

Bottom, Daniel L., Kim K. Jones, Charles A. Simenstad, and Courtland L. Smith. 2009. Reconnecting Social and Ecological Resilience in Salmon Ecosystems. Ecology and Society 14(1).

Cox, Sean P., Scott G. Hinch. 1997. “Changes in size at maturity of Fraser River sockeye salmon (Onchorhynchus nerka) (1952-1993) and associations with temperature.” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54: 1159-1165.

Crossin, G.T., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.W. Welch, D.A. Patterson, S.R.M. Jones, A.G. Lotto, R.A. leggatt, M.T. Mathes, J.M. Shrimpton, G. Van Der Kraak, and A.P. Farrell. 2008. “Exposure to high temperature influences the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migration.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 86:127-140.

Farrell, A.P., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.A. Patterson, G.T. Crossin, M. lapointe, M.T. Mathes. 2008. “Pacific Salmon in hot Water: Applying Aerobic Scope Models and Biotelemetry to Predict the Success of Spawning Migrations. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81(6): 697-708

Ferrari, Michael R., James R. Miller, Gary L. Russell. 2007. “Modeling changes in summer temperature of the Fraser river during the next century.” Journal of Hydrology 342: 336-346.

Galloway, Gloria. 2009. Harper digs in heels as Obama heads to Copenhagen. Globe and Mail, online, 25 November 2009. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-digs-in-heels-as-obama-heads-to-copenhagen/article1376880/&gt;

Hume, Mark. 2009. Fraser River’s salmon stocks ‘beyond a crisis.’ Globe and Mail, online, 13 August 2009.


Karp, David. 2009. Sockeye salmon numbers crash as bust replaces anticipated bounty on B.C. coast. Vancouver Sun, online, 27 July 2009. <http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Sockeye+salmon+numbers+crash+bust+replaces+anticipated+bounty+coast/1832698/story.html&gt;

Rand, P.S., S.G. Hinch, J. Morrison, M.G.G. Foreman, M.J. MacNutt, J.S. Macdonald, M.C. Healey, A.P. Farrell, D.A. Higgs. 2006.  “Effects of River Discharge, Temperature, and Future Climates on Energetics and Mortality of Adult Migrating Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.”  Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 135: 655-667.

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I can honestly say that I have not been to a fast food restaurant in a long time, really the only time I eat fastfood is for a late night snack after the pit, however now I find myself walking to the bus loop to go home, rather than to McDonalds in the Village.

The fast food industry in Developing Countries
With the rapid increase in local food and a more health conscious public, fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) are no longer attracting the same number of customers as the restaurants did in the 1990’s. We no longer see the lines outside major fast food restaurants and these restaurants are no longer seen as popular “quick bites. These chains were previously  “cool” hangouts but are no longer considered popular meeting points for today’s youth. Customers who buy local are rarely seen eating popcorn shrimp at KFC or ordering chicken wings at Pizza Hut. But if you hop on a flight to Kathmandu, or easier just rewind time 15 hours to Wednesday November, 23, mid-day and picture the 1,000 plus crowd outside the KFC/Pizza hut in Kathmandu as thousands of people welcomed its first multinational chain of restaurants to enter the country of Nepal.

This forced many questions within my group of trekkers: one being why does a country that eats probably more local food than anywhere in the world welcome these chains? The answer is obvious as Nepal begs for more western capital investment. RJ Corp is the biggest bottler of Pepsi brands in Nepal and also the largest franchisee for YUM brands, mainly Pizza Hut and KFC. As stated by the officials of R J Corp, “Nepal is a promising market for these brands and their entry will give the Nepali economy a boost by creating job opportunities for locals”. The opening of these two fast food chains is said to give Nepali consumers the first local experience of an international food chain. Devyani International along with YUM Brands is the world’s largest restaurant company with five global brands and 35,000 outlets across 105 countries, and they are, “…excited to make their entry in the Nepalese restaurant circle and they have extensive plans for growth and expansion in this market”, says a R J Corp spokesperson. This expansion will in the end hurt Nepal and the people in the local restaurant industry.

The funny thing is that, “many of the ingredients for KFC and Pizza Hut are imported from abroad, including the chicken from Brazil and potatoes from Australia”, and this will be the case as ingredients will shipped to India then brought to Nepal. The most common food in Nepal is daal bhat, which consists of Rice (bhat), and a bean soup (Daal), and whenever I enjoyed it (at least once a day) it was accompanied with potatoes. The people of Nepal eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Almost everything I ate while I was in Nepal included potatoes as an ingredient. So why would YUM ship in potatoes over 5,000 miles from Australia to Nepal when the locals would be glad to sell produce to YUM? And why is there a belief that consumers in Nepal are ready for an international eating-out experience, as one RJ Corp official stated.

On a Global Level

In educating the world of the benefits of eating local, which 99.9% of Nepal has no choice but to do, it is important that we stop the growth and expansion of international chains. And if it is necessary for the YUM brands to expand into the developing world and benefit communities by providing jobs, it should be addresses that these franchises attempt to use local ingredients. Personally I think RJ Corp is trying to exploit Nepal and the introduction of Pizza Hut and KFC will not help Nepal’s economy. Sure it will provide jobs but the amount of customers taken from the local restaurants will do more harm than good. Not to mention that soon we will see a McDonalds, Burger King, Dairy Queen, (and the list goes on) in the Center of Durbar Square and on the main street of Pokhara.

On A Local Level
The common phrase “the solution to pollution is dilution” is a motto that states that an adequate amount of pollution is not harmful if spread out over a large area. Although not entirely accurate the phrase alone is catchy and has increased the awareness of pollution on a global level. So, where is the chant phrase for the local farmers or the sandwich shop next-door to the Subway, or the Tim’s Produce across from the Safeway?
Lets start the dictum that: In order to get the world to eat local, we must be Vocal. The more people that express the interest in locally grown food to be served in community restaurants, sold in markets, and cooked buy street vendors, the more the seller will be inclined to please the costumer by buying local. Next time you are out to eat, order the BC Beef, and maybe some local greens. All I ask is that you think twice about ordering the exotic fruit salad.

Works Cited



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“How can a self-proclaimed bigot responsibly manage Canada’s immigration policy?” a concerned anonymous citizen asked of immigration minister Jason Kenney. On another rainy afternoon in Vancouver, November 14th to be exact, UBC campus police later detained the individual for becoming too passionate during a question and answer session with the controversial Member of Parliament (MP).


Immigration is not a topic often associated with food sovereignty, commonly referred to as “the peoples’ right to define agricultural and food policy” by Via Campensina, the originators of the term. But for Harjap Grewal of No One is Illegal (NOII) the two are “very much linked”. A large part of the audience was critical of the MP and much of the intense heat came from NOII. He sees immigration as “the human impact of free trade policy (which is) the reason why they’re migrating”.


Over the past decade immigration has become a larger issue in Canadian politics as a larger number of people seek refugee and migrant worker status. Jason Kenney has this to say to the Calgary Sun, “We’ve actually made the politically difficult decision to maintain historically high levels of immigration.” The controversial politician is well documented by NOII citing the fact that he “oversaw the largest immigration raid in recent Canadian history, which went largely unreported. In an illegal move, 41 of them were tricked into signing waivers that removed their right to a hearing and many have now been deported.”

Jason speaking in Toronto NOII Poster


On the other hand, he seems to be making it easier for migrant workers to stay. Tarina White of the Calgary Sun reported, “Calgary newcomers will have access to more language training (to the tune of) almost $9.5 million in funding…Kenney said he hopes the investment will boost the percentage of immigrants enrolling in language programs each year, which currently sits at 25%.” According to Bill Kaufman of the Sun, Kenney said his government is stepping up its monitoring of foreign workers’ treatment while making it easier for the newcomers to become permanent residents and citizens.


White also noted that Alberta Federation of Labour President, Gil McGowan, accuses international free trade agreements of ‘setting up foreign workers to be exploited’. McGowan also said of a rapidly-growing number of migrant workers, only 3% of them are eligible for permanent residency.”


Kenney’s presence on the 14th at UBC campus was met by human-rights advocates. The organizer of the event, Campus Conservatives’ President Robert Sroka has this to say, “(It was) an opportunity for anyone who wanted to respectfully participate in interaction between students and government.” In response to the negative feedback the MP received Sroka replied, “It’s a contentious issue and there is always going to be someone unhappy.”


The event at UBC panned out differently than when Kenney recently appeared at McGill in Montreal. There 50 people confronted him outside the building, and briefly denied him access which resulted in a cancellation of his event. When questioned in regards to his immigration policy, he responded “I plead guilty, I’m a racist,” with a “hint of sarcasm” according to a publication by No One Is Illegal Montréal. Kenney’s visit to UBC was greeted with a police presence. At McGill this was not case.


“A majority of the questions (at the UBC event) were highly critical of the MP’s immigration policy to which he mainly responded by talking around the question,” according to Fathima Cader, a participant.


Overshadowed by the immigration policy “is that the increasing number of migrants and refugees around the world is due to the effects of imperialist occupations and capitalist exploitation that Canada is complicit in,” says Grewal. He is backed by United Nations Development Programme. Their Human Development Report of 2005 of the states, “Unfair trade policies continue to deny millions of people in the world’s poorest countries an escape route from poverty, and perpetuates obscene inequalities.”


The recent spike in migration to North America is caused by a lack of healthy food culture. Many poor refugees find asylum in cases where they are fleeing death threats by gangs as is the case with a now-dead Mexican asylum applicant. These gangs are often associated with illegal drugs and addictions. As SFU Professor Bruce Alexander recently said, “When culture breaks down, you’ll find addictions.” Culture in Latin and South America has changed drastically. Many subsistence growers have been kicked off their land by wealthy powers who buy them out. This culture of local, organic and self-sustaining growing is nearly wiped out. To cope with this, some resort to drugs. This drug addiction is often associated with gang activity which is now causing community members to fear for their life and apply for refugee asylum. Thus the influx of immigrants can be quelled by changing our food policy abroad and at home.


It is time to put an end to free-trade policies so that global equity can regain momentum. To do this we must become aware of the culture and politics associated with eating and how they effect those outside our imaginary national boundaries. With that said, perhaps it’s not so crazy to say that the influx of global migration has something to do with the fact that BC residents now pay the lowest percentage of their income on food than ever before? But McGowan knows this for sure, the current immigration policy set up for foreign (mainly food-harvesting) migrant workers, “creates an underclass of workers.”

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It’s easy to enjoy the best local food in Vancouver when you can control the menu. But going out to a restaurant can be a bit tricky. Nowadays, some restaurants in Vancouver are trying to put local ingredients front and center. Chefs are choosing to support local farmers by prominently featuring British Columbian grown food on their menus.

While buying local food for a restaurant can be slightly more challenging than buying from a wholesale food distributor, it isn’t as hard as you might think. There has been an increase in the number of small farms and farmer’s markets throughout British Columbia.

With an abundance of readily available locally grown products, lets start thinking local by choosing to eat BC food and beverages whenever possible. To help you get started, I will provide a guide to help you familiarize yourself to some of the local restaurants that are a part of the “Get Local Business Alliance”. These restaurants are committed to selling and serving locally grown food in the Lower Mainland and its surrounding areas.

1. Pair Bistro: 3763 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC

Pair Bistro, is located in the heart of Point Grey, just minutes from UBC and is one of the restaurants in Vancouver serving only “All BC all the time”. Since 2004 the Bistro has been committed to serving locally sourced ingredients.  The menu, for instance, doesn’t list starters or entrees, but lists dishes by price, from a Wild Mushroom Latte ($3) to a Pinot Braised Kettle Valley Spring Lamp Shank ($25). Some dishes like the oven roasted garlic or the cranberry pate, appear to be self-sufficient, but most are meant to “pair” with “earthy bites” such as rosemary Pemberton potatoes and Red & Gold Candied Beets.

We’re talking local and organic wherever possible.

2. O’Doul’s Restaurant and Bar: 1300 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC

O’Doul’s sets the standard for eco-friendly practices. They are committed to purchasing from local suppliers by sourcing ethically produced goods. As active members of Green Table Member, Ocean Wise and Get Local, they are passionate about supporting local farms. Behind the scenes, this restaurant has adopted practices to ultimately attempt to reduce its carbon footprint. Executive Chef Chris Whittaker’s menu puts emphasis on serving a fresh harvest of the Fraser delta and the bounty of the Pacific. If Citrus and Maple-cured BC Sablefish Fillet or Qualicum Bay scallops sound tempting, then make a trip to O’Doul’s and pair your cuisine with locally sourced Okanagan or Vancouver Island wines.

3. Raincity Grill: 1193 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC

Raincity Grill was one of the first restaurants in the city to take advantage of local ingredients and produce and in doing so has helped define Pacific Northwest cuisine. Harry Kambolis, owner of Raincity Grill as well as C Restaurant and Nu Restaurant + Lounge is devoted to serving sustainable seafood from our local waters and ingredients that are distinctive and homegrown. With a “Farm to Table” commitment, these restaurants have partnered up with local artisan farmers throughout the Lower Mainland and its surrounding areas.

Raincity Grill also features a “100 Mile Tasting Menu” every last Monday of the month. The fixed menu selects local dishes where the star of the plates are the vegetables from our local farms. “The need to protect valuable farm land and encourage the production of more sustainable local food sources, has prompted us to look to vegetables as the next muse for our creativity,” comments Executive Chef Robert Clark. This Monday, Raincity Grill will be featuring dishes from North Arm Farm in Pemberton and Out Landish Seafood Guild from Cortes Island.

There you have it. Five local restaurants featuring a delicious menu with ingredients produced locally. Lets start feeling good about what we eat and start rethinking where we go out to dine.

When buying locally grown products we can support our bioregion, local community and at the same time create a connection with our food. Food miles are an important factor to consider when we look at which food is best.

Food that is grown within British Columbia is transported only 100-200 kilometers at most, whereas it would take an average of 2,300 kilometers if we bought products from foreign countries.

When eating food, we must remember the environmental costs associated in the transportation involved in shipping these products to BC. Not to mention that products are increasingly more fresh and full of vital nutrients.

Some restaurants are shifting and focusing on buying local ingredients not for its freshness, but for those consumers who are becoming increasingly conscious of eating locally grown products. Please show your support for your local farmers (and your local chef) by making your reservation today!

NB: For a complete listing of caterers, grocery stores, growers and producers who sell locally grown products, please refer to the get local website.

1 “Pair.” Pair Bistro. Patio. Wine Bar. Oyster House & Taps. Pair. Web. 23 Nov. 2009. <http://www.pairbistro.ca/HOME.html>.

2 “Welcome to O’Doul’s Restaurant & Bar.” Welcome to O’Doul’s Restaurant & Bar. O’Doul’s Restaurant, 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2009. <http://www.odoulsrestaurant.com/>.

3 Edible Designs. “100 Mile Tasting Menu.” Menus. Raincity Grill, 2006. Web. 24 Nov. 2009. <http://www.raincitygrill.com/aboutus.cfm>.

4 “Manager of Raincity Grill.” Telephone interview. 23 Nov. 2009.

5 Footprint Choices. “Why buy locally grown or produced food?” Why buy locally grown or produced food? Footprint Choices, 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2009. <http://www.slowmovement.com/local_shops.php>.

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Over the last 5 years, changes to the Food Safety Act regarding the regulation of meat butchering and processing have forced many smaller, independent farmers to become much more imaginative in how they do business. Under the 2004 legislation, all animals killed for human consumption in BC must be slaughtered in a provincial or federally licensed facility, in the presence of a certified meat inspector. This has many small producers worried, since they will face two undesirable choices. Either they can ship their animals to be slaughtered and processed—often over long distances and at a much greater cost—or build their own certified facility. For many, both options are too expensive which has resulted in a significant decrease in small scale meat production and a threat to a well-established alternative to buying retail meat in BC; one that embodies the idea of a localized, face-to-face food system that many people endorse. However others are not so willing to relinquish their community responsibilities, even if it means circumventing the law; which brings me to my story.

Its 5:50 am as I walked towards the large driftwood gate signifying my arrival at the Edgehill Farm.  Wedged between the shores of the Pacific and peaks of the Coastal Mountains this small scale family operated farm has long been a local source of organically raised and humanely butchered meat products.  Having known owners Bill and Susan most of my life, and spending many of my summers helping their son David with his chores, I was caught off guard by the strong feeling of covertness this meeting assumed. Not wanting to draw attention to themselves or their farm, the Edgehill’s have asked I not reveal their given names.

“It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal,” said Bill when asked, “We’ve just sort of found a loophole which has allowed us to continue doing what we love; farming.”

The loophole Bill refers to has been a small change in how he represents his business. No longer just an independent farmer, Bill is now also the manager of an agricultural co-op, a signifier that allows him to continue butchering his farms livestock and feeding his community.

“Essentially, the animals are not mine. The chickens, ducks, pigs, lambs, and cattle all belong to the members of the co-op. Each person owns shares. So when an order is made and it comes time to butcher an animal, I am not technically selling the meat, it already belongs to the consumer.”

 For Bill the issue lies in how Provincial Government perceives the importance of farming as only a financial matter, one that can only be solved through big business. “They use concerns over food safety to protect corporate interests. As if allowing big companies to profit by processing my meat will create confidence in BC farmers.  It’s scientifically proven and officially documented that most related illnesses have been caused by meat from large scale operations.”

“It’s slanderous,” replied Susan, “this portrayal of the small scale farmer as unethical and irresponsible. We’re obviously not in it to get rich. Providing healthy food is our main concern.”

The small scale method, especially those that are more diversified is much more sustainable according to the Edgehill’s. On their farm, aside from livestock, they also grow a number of fruits and vegetables which feed both the family and the livestock. “It’s necessary, not just for our own needs, our planet is a finite resource” explained Susan. “Everything is connected, the land, the plants, the animals, us, we all have to work together.”

The Edgehill’s have also shared their ideas and experiences with a few other small scale farmers throughout the province and have received very positive feedback. “It’s important to support our fellow farmers,” stressed Bill, “communities all over this province are not only missing out on healthy local foods, but they are also losing valuable knowledge about sustainable practices.”

In recognizing the importance of regional production in creating food security, Bill doesn’t understand the corporate logic in food production.”Why do we continue to create a dependence on international trade? Why should I need to grow beef for American markets in order to pay for lamb imported from New Zealand? Why can’t I eat what’s in front of me?”

When asked about what consumers could do to improve the opportunities for local farmers the Edgehill’s stressed the importance of creating local demand. “The co-op has been very successful, but we have to be diligent,” explained Bill. “It’s a bit guerrilla, you know? We need to prove that sustainable local food systems are necessary but in a democratic way. “

When approached about the consequences of being caught Both Bill and Susan admitted they were taking a risk. “We could lose everything,” stated Bill. “Fines are upwards of $50,000 a day if they decide to pursue us. But to us it is worth it. The community, by helping create the co-op have demanded it, they prefer to know where their food comes from and how it was produced; they don’t get that from the big guys.”

 “It’s about doing things right,” says Susan. “We need to do things in a way which is healthy for our planet, if we do that everyone benefits. Even it means twisting the rules a little. A little risk is worth a healthier future.”

Interested in Small-scale agriculture:


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With news shifting from harvest recipes to articles of ‘how to prepare your garden for the winter’ and the Vancouver’s summer farmers markets coming to a close, it is becoming less inspiring to cook with local produce. In order to see what a household might do during this season to beat out the rainy season blues I sauntered into a home where I knew some radical foodies resided.The Red House

Stepping in through the front door of the Red House I was glad to be out of the rain. It was that kind of rainy that only a Vancouver November could bring. I was welcomed into the cozy home and greeted by the smell of roasting squash and the faint sent of fermenting. The Red House is a communal house in Strathcona. All five housemates have agreed to cook weekly for each other and tonight is Alicia’s turn to make dinner. Alicia Gladman is a local food activist and foody at heart. When I asked her what kind of treat we were in for this evening, she replied. “I made a Roasted Butternut Squash with wild rice instead of the farro that the recipe called for and I added some rosemary too ‘cause who doesn’t like rosemary!?” She was cooking for the house and a few other guests so it was a real feast.

I asked Alicia to tell me about the meal we were going to eat. “I bought the squash at the winter farmers market. The wild rice we have [the house shares] came from the Maritimes, which is interesting that it’s even from this continent. And I used this rosemary that was given to me by the man at Union market [a local market that has fueled the neighbourhood for years]. He heard that I was making squash for dinner and went back into the garden and got me some rosemary!”

It is interesting that she spoke about where she acquired the main ingredients first. It says something about the thought process and politic that goes into her cooking. She then showed me the website that she often uses for inspiration. 101 Cookbooks is an aesthetically pleasing website and offers a search option to find recipes by ingredients, which is quite handy when attempting to keep it seasonal.

Alicia always attempts to cook with seasonal food and does her own canning. Having spent most of her youth in the Okanagan, Alicia has been surrounded by seasonal growers. “I grew up canning peaches and various other seasonal fruits and enjoy putting labour into canning in the summer and enjoying it in the winter.” She showed me cans of salsas, jams and chutneys made from tomatoes, plums, grapes and other produce and herbs from The Red House’s garden and other friend’s yards.

She then pointed out the two batches of home brew that were sitting in big buckets in the corner. “I’m brewing a winter ale and a pale ale right now.” We had time before dinner and I was able to help Alicia transfer the winter ale from the ‘primary’ bucket to the ‘secondary’ glass carboy. We added cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to give it that winter spicy goodness. Unfortunately we forgot that stirring in the spices would not be the best idea and lost a cup or two of brew to the foam that spewed out the top!

Finally sitting down to eat, I wanted to ask Alicia more specifically about her food purchasing politics. When posed with the question of buying local or organic Alicia responded, “I would choose local because I feel that there is more importance in localizing and developing relations within a local economy than buying organic, as organic can be green washing of the currently awful capitalist market. Buying local is a part of a greater revolution away from the current economic system and more directly addressed the problems within our food system.”

She continued, “If we actually want to change the relationship with our food and with each other there are systemic issues we have to address in our economic systems. Aside from being monetarily based, there are also larger social and political problems within our food system. By focusing locally in a food system, other things get considered such as the social wellbeing of the community, the local environment.”

Unfortunately the avocados and chickpeas of our kale salad had enormous food miles, and the spices we put in the beer were not from around here, but there is something to be said for the appreciation of ones own labour. The do it yourself (DIY) culture around homebrew, communal cooking and share houses seems to be a part of a larger localizing movement focusing around appreciating the labour that goes into the commodities we consume. Alicia’s efforts in supporting the winters farmers market, building relationships within her neighbourhood, sharing food and sharing the workload of maintaining her home are all small political acts that help to keep her food conscious mind at ease during this rainy season.

Rain jacket and boots back on, I trekked back through the cold wet to my own cozy home only to find movie-watching roomies taking another approach in dealing with this November lull.

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Food Security and The Harvest Project

According to the World Resources Institute, over 2 billion people worldwide live in hunger every day.  “Food security”– a commonly used phrase which is often thrown around in discussions of organics, GMO’s, small farms etc.–can be defined as the safety and accessibility of an individual’s food supply.  While it takes no stretch of the imagination to envision many places the world over where people suffer from hunger and starvation, food security is not just an issue of faraway places.  Many residents of Vancouver do not have reliable access to healthy, affordable food—which may come as no surprise in a city with such a high-cost of living.

A few organizations in Vancouver have made it their concern to improve this situation, which typically comes down to a question of distribution and access to readily available food.  The Harvest Project in North Vancouver, whose motto is “extending a hand up, not a hand out,” is just such an organization.

The Harvest Project is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to serve marginalized families and individuals and to “help them cope with difficult life circumstances…to overcome challenges and move towards being self-sufficient once again.”  In addition to providing counseling services, and clothing, the Harvest Project supplies its clients with grocery parcels to support those who are unable to provide food for themselves.  The organization supplies over 2000 clients with a total of $730,000 in non-perishables as well as a large quantity of perishable items on an annual basis.

Currently the Harvest Project has expanded its efforts to provide fresh, perishable groceries to its beneficiaries with the support and direction of Vancouver Coastal Health.  This effort is made possible by a newly-acquired refrigerated van which is used to collect produce and other goods which would typically be discarded as waste from grocery stores and restaurants.

As we have often discussed in class with regards to dumpster diving and other methods of food reclamation, “waste” food is a highly controversial subject.  What defines some food as “waste?”  And how much of this discarded food is still acceptable for consumption, but does not meet our expectations for appearances?     Too often, large quantities of food which have been slightly bruised, broken or otherwise damaged are tossed out by grocery stores and produce stands because they are no longer sellable due to a their less-than-perfect appearance.  Goods like pastries or bread which have a shelf-life of several days are discarded only a few hours after baking because they are no longer “fresh.”  What happens to all of this food?  Usually the large majority of food items which are not donated to charity by food retailers end up in the landfill.  This unfortunate circumstance can be explained by legal regulations which encourage businesses to waste food rather than make it available to the needy.  If food is kept outside the “safe zone” of temperature regulation—i.e. kept in clean, but unrefrigerated waste bins—businesses can be held legally accountable for any food-related illnesses experienced by its consumption.  This means that if a hungry person were to take discarded food from the dumpsters of a restaurant or grocery store and subsequently became ill, the business would be liable for this illness.  Legal liability, in this case, encourages Vancouver businesses not only to waste an incredible amount of usable food, but to lock their dumpsters and waste bins in order to keep the hungry out.

Luckily, for groups like the Harvest Project, Vancouver policy makers took issue with this enormous level of waste and formulated a legal policy to encourage businesses to donate their waste food to charitable organizations.  This act, named “The Food Donor Encouragement Act,” releases businesses and individuals from any legal liability surrounding food which is donated to and distributed by non-profit organizations.   Thanks to this act, the Harvest Project is now able to collect a much higher volume of produce and fresh goods for its charity efforts than in previous years.  Not only does this augment the overall number of food items they are able to provide for their clients, but it also contributes to a higher quality—clients are no longer given only canned goods and processed foods, but fresh (often local and organic) produce.  In addition, the project has now developed a second facet to its food recovery program which involves its clients in community kitchen projects where they learn “hands-on skills with fresh food preparation.”  As part of their mission statement to “extend a hand up, not a hand out,” the Harvest Project takes their efforts at contributing to local residents’ food security to another level.  They implement policies which not only encourage businesses to contribute to local food security for the needy, but they give their clients the skills to take the issue into their own hands.


Works Referenced:

Harvest Project. Chris Hutchcroft Consulting, 2009. Web. 23 Nov. 2009. <http://www.harvestproject.org/&gt;.

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  What do the Gateway project, the UBC Farm, and Sprouts have in common?  Food security, live music, and beer of course!  As part of its final project, students of GEOG 442 are hosting the first “Ethical Eats: Chow Down, Act Up!” event on December 18th at the Agro Café to expose issues of food security, and educate people on the importance of local food movements.   

As a Student Directed Seminar (SDS), the course has been designed and organized by Ben Amundson and his faculty advisor Juanita Saunders.  Launched in 1990 at the UBC, the SDS program enables students to develop a course and can incorporate a community service learning project as a final requirement.

 According to Amundson, GEOG 442 aims “to investigate the social and environmental linkages between us and our meal”. Participating students have described classes being held on the UBC Farm, as well as weekly presentation on the stories behind many of our favorite foods like bananas, chicken, and even exotic produce including dragon fruit!  The course further emphasizes communication tools such as blogging, which Amundson credits as being “the best method for creating change” particularly with respect to environmental equity, another foundational theme to the course.  When asked about plans for next year, Amundson hopes that final projects are created so that “the Farm and other hot-button social-environmental justice groups can actually use [them] in their campaigns.” 

As a course that is “focused on solutions” the students have decided to conclude their course by hosting their Ethical Eats event, in providing the students a forum to present their research findings while exploring issues of food security in and around the university.  One student, Johnny Reynolds views the event as a “great way to start dialogue about our food.” Topped off by homemade local and organic nibbles and free local beer, this event has received positive responses, including from Sprouts President, Caitlin Dorward.  “We really want to see faculties beyond Land and Food Systems concerning itself with issues of food security,” Dorward explains, adding that she views Ethical Eats in line with Sprouts’ own objectives of promoting increased academic integration on issues of food security. 

A member of the farm also remarked that such events help expose the issues faced by the UBC Farm, as well as work to highlight the services that it provides.  “The UBC Farm is all about local, sustainable agriculture, and has a focus especially on community-building…Ethical Eats [focuses] on how we can continue to celebrate local food and local farmers.”  The class will have at least one presentation examining the Farm, a place that Ben West, Vancouver Green Party Chair, described as “one of the most important and innovative research facilities working on the issue of sustainability.”

Held at the Agro Café on Granville Island, the café has its own connections with the course, as one of the students, Tory Cundiff, is also a long standing employee.  According to Cundiff, the venue’s appropriateness is twofold as the company is “owned and managed by a former Land and Food systems student” who has “applied concepts like local food security to a real, local business”.   The café sells BC certified organic and certified fair trade coffee, and encourages its customers to increase their awareness of fair trade products through their Crop2Cup Program. 

 “We are shooting for a solution-oriented event” explains GEOG 442 student Emily Hein, where opportunities to donate to causes addressing food security will be made available at the event.  The class estimates hosting 200 people over the course of the evening.  Further information can be found on their Facebook page “Ethical Eats Chow Down & Act Up” as well as on posters around campus. 

Admission is $5 with no one turned away, which includes a local/organic buffet of homemade eats.  A local beer will also be on tap at $4 a pint, with live music all night.  The course has its own website, https://envirocommunications.wordpress.com/  where you can find articles, events, and student created blogs focused on the issue of food security.  

Agro Cafe.  (2009).  Crop2Cup.

Amundson, Ben (2009).  Questionnaire, November 2009.

Cundiff, Tory (2009). Questionnaire, November 2009.

Hein, Emily.  (2009).  Questionnaire, November 2009.

Reynolds, Johnny (2009).  Questionnaire, November 2009.

Westerneye.  (2008).  “Ben West – Metro Vancouver meeting re: UBC Farm.”  Video. 


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