Since the dawn of civilization, food has intertwined with our rituals, celebrations and social interaction. Entire cultures are linked to the foods they embrace. From our first day of life to our departing farewell, food is an integral element of our existence. Yet increasingly we take it for granted, and when you take something for granted, you risk losing it.
Do you know where your next meal is coming from? This is a question key community stakeholders will address on Monday, March 25 as they assemble at the South Shore Centre for what may be Barrie’s first ever Food Security workshop. The day will commence with inspiration from David Miller, former mayor of Toronto.
This workshop comes on the heels of Simcoe County’s recently introduced Food and Agriculture Charter. Culminating two years’ work by the Simcoe County Food Partners Alliance, the Charter outlines a vision and principles to serve as parameters of food security.
But what does that mean to the city of Barrie? And why has this suddenly become an issue? Why would anyone in our affluent society question their source of food? Is that not the exclusive concern of those living below the poverty level, or maybe the elderly living on fixed income and restricted mobility?
The grim reality is that affordability is only one of many issues raising concern. As our food system becomes more globalized, we lose touch with the source and content of what we eat. Plantations replacing old-growth rain forests, industrialized factory farms and giant food processing plants and are just a few of changes evolving to service an exploding global population. With these changes come underlying risks: human error in a facility supplying meat products to an entire continent; extreme weather conditions ruining a crop destined to feed an entire country; unsustainable monoculture practices demanding ever-increasing inputs of artificial chemicals and supplements to maintain production; intercontinental supply chains depending on cheap fuels and safe passage to deliver goods to market in a timely fashion.
And if that’s not enough, recent studies suggest that between 30 to 50% of food produced is wasted, a disturbing statistic when almost 1 billion people go hungry or suffer from scarcity of healthy food.
Much of the answer lies in supporting local food; it’s much easier to trust the quality and accessibility of food produced in your own back yard. This might include education and teaching people how to identify, grow, cook, and preserve healthy foods. It may involve developing policies and bylaws that support local food production. Hopefully it will include building synergies by expanding existing best practices of some of the numerous organizations already at work in Barrie.
To have your voice heard at this workshop, please visit www.transitionbarrie.org to comment on the Food Security Workshop blog.
Written with Mike Fox, published in the Barrie Examiner.