Food. Everyone can relate to food in some way, whether you eat to live, or live to eat. Through our choices around food, we can have significant impact on our environment. Since there are so many ways that food impacts sustainability, there are many ways people can make change.
Let’s face it. Our food system is broken. I could tell you how, but Oxfam sums it pretty well. We cannot continue on this path of destruction, as climate change makes itself more apparent, oil prices continue to rise and our agricultural land continues to be destroyed by both unsustainable farming practices and developed into high rises. People in developed countries cannot deny that much of this destruction is being caused by our society’s insatiable demand for avocados in Canada, strawberries in December and mountains of pre-packaged, highly processed, “convenience” foods. When does it make sense that a package of food amalgamated from ingredients from all over the world, processed in a factory, packaged in plastic, and shipped to the grocery store is cheaper than a head of lettuce bought from a farmer growing across town? Something isn’t working. The economics of our food systems simply are not sustainable.
Leading from Within
As an introverted and often shy person, I sometimes have a hard time identifying with “leadership” . I am not the type to go out there and start my own non-profit, write a book on food or create a blog with thousands of followers. It is difficult for me to see how I can make change about something I am so passionate about, but without the kind of outgoing people skills that push so many others out in front. But I realize that if everyone was that kind of leader, we would have a lot of people talking, but not enough people taking action. The world is full of countless quiet leaders, people out there doing the work, leading by example and making small changes in their communities and neighbourhoods.
Leading by Involvement
Change in the realm of food is happening everywhere. Throughout Vancouver, there are food policy councils and food security networks, engaging in discussion and driving change. Food security collaboratives are working to provide local, affordable and fresh food to neighbourhoods that are otherwise unable to access these things. Pocket markets and community kitchens exist all around the city. They are widespread and yet invisible to those who aren’t paying attention. There are many kinds of food related events going on all the time, promoting food that is organic, local, vegetarian, accessible and sustainable. Organizations like Village Vancouver bring people together over food on a regular basis, and often offer information and workshops on things like cheese making, canning and food production. And it is really easy and oh, so much fun to get your hands dirty on an urban farm or in your own garden plot. I have come to appreciate the simplicity and complexity of growing food, and have gained a solid understanding of everything that goes into the food that I eat, from the dirt that it grows in, the bees that pollinate it, and the effort required to keep it alive until it’s ready to end up on my plate.
Over my last 4 months of food immersion, I continue to learn a great deal, and I share that knowledge through conversation and action. Because it’s food, everyone can relate on some level. It’s not the huge, daunting, and divisive subject of climate change or politics or saving a world that very desperately needs saving. After all it’s all about what we eat. And the way to the heart of a non-environmentalist is through their stomachs.
Photos courtesy of Karly Pinch and Kitsilano Neighbourhood House