Earlier this fall I attended an event held in Fort St John in partnership with Urban Systems and the Northern Environmental Action Team called 'Come to the Table.'
It was an evening of discussion and presentations around access to healthy food in the region, or in general terms what we can call 'food security.'
Now I had always assumed 'food security' was far more specific and something that wouldn't affect most people in my region. I imagined being food insecure meant you lived in the arctic and a Tropicana orange juice or a head of lettuce was flown in by plane and cost you $20.
Yes, this sort of fits the definition of food insecurity, but I was rather naive in thinking it applied more to remote geographic regions, rather than socio-economic backgrounds and family incomes.
To be food secure means having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
Food insecurity, more often than not, means your access to nutritious, affordable food is not only limited by regional availability, but by simply not having enough money to buy that food.
Before we talk about food banks and children going to school hungry, I'm going to talk about the regional issue of our availability to food.
As presented at this event, there are a number of young, local farmers getting back to the land and growing abundant local harvests of produce for our northern region.
Fort St John was primarily an agricultural community before the exploration of oil and gas took off in the '50's. (Before that were trappers and fur traders, and before them were hunting and gathering indigenous peoples.) Our region has been capable of sustaining it's people for thousands of years.
Our lifestyles and societies have changed a lot since then, but what if our region could recover some of it's ability to sustain itself in terms of food?
How can we support small business market growers in the Peace Region AND help address the needs of those most food insecure in our community at the same time?
And then I came across an interesting video. It's a longer one, but it highlights the really interesting concept of embedding social impact INTO the fabric of your business. Now, the subject in the video is a non-profit organization, but they also talk about philanthropy and how effective our money is when we give it away.
After watching this video, I was able to see a fresh perspective, one that I could use to view our regional situation from another angle:
How can we embed our desire to promote regional food security - into the fabric of our small businesses - and create greater positive impact for the most vulnerable, and our community as a whole?
I'm also hyper aware of the desires of a growing number of people searching for more meaning and purpose in their lives, who feel like their job or employment is standing in their way. I've been in this position before myself.
These nagging feelings affect how engaged people are in their current life situation or their current stage of their career. Employees are yearning to contribute to direct positive social outcomes, but these opportunities often exist outside of personal job descriptions. A lot of people can't up and leave there current income in search of a more 'fulfilling' position. But they can get their hands dirty and discover the color and beauty of locally grown veggie gardens.
Can we create a way for people to engage in issues that are meaningful to them inside the framework of one’s current employment situation?
- Can employers invest in sponsorship opportunities that help educate and inform our children about healthy eating and connecting with how food is grown?
- Can employers incentivize staff to volunteer with these local organizations by pledging to match donation funds with hours contributed?
- How about a fresh & locally grown produce box delivered weekly to the staff lunch room?
- Or employers subsidizing part of the cost if staff are interested in signing their own household up for local food box programs?
These are just a few creative ideas that have come to me, and below are a few local organization locally that you could reach out to and support with your time and money:
Seeds of Change
Garden Bed Sponsorship Program
Through the Norther Environmental Action Team in Fort St John, you and/or your employer can sponsor a garden bed or fruit tree at a local school to grow food for those who really need it. These garden beds will be located five different local schools and the Community Garden. All of the food grown in these beds will be distributed through the Salvation Army and Women's Resources or preserved through NEAT's canning initiatives. You can find out more here.
Hip Peace Local Food Box Program
Hip Peace Produce - Growing Food, Building Community
Bess & Mike are local farmers offering a wide and vibrant array of fruits and vegetables for sale through farm stand sales at Bear Flat in the Peace River Valley, as well as the local farmers market in FSJ during the summer months. This year they are launching the new Hip Peace Local Food Box Program where fresh produce is boxed weekly especially for you if you join the program. You can contact them here.
Reliable access to food shouldn't be a luxury, and fresh, locally grown produce shouldn't be hard to find either! Please consider supporting those working hard in our region to build and support a sustainable and secure local food system.