More and more, food security is taking centre stage. Our understanding of its importance in supporting local farms and building a food secure region is growing. Of course, we are always excited and grateful to see the extent to which our members seek out local food. And we understand that choosing local can cost more. We are therefore truly inspired to see great community organisations and businesses that are also making important choices to support local food, even with tight budgets and margins. In this issue, we ask True Local Hero Nelson Food Cupboard how and why they are making local food purchasing part of their core operations.
The Nelson Food Cupboard has a long-standing commitment to providing their clients with healthy, fresh foods. When they purchase food, they are making a significant commitment to buying from local farmers.
Where do you buy local food from?
We purchase locally from:
Glade Valley Garden – summer vegetables
SEEDS – majority of winter greens
Kirtzinger Farms – eggs
Canyon City Farm (Creston) – winter vegetables
Tipiland – garlic
In 2013 we spent $9280 from these local suppliers!
What other food security (producer-related) initiatives does the NFCS engage in (events, advocacy, education)
This year we expanded Harvest Rescue to include a gardening help component. In addition to helping with the gardens at McKim Cottage, Friendship Clubhouse, NDCC and a few individuals, we also provided volunteer labor to two local producers: Kirtzinger Farm and Mad Dog Farm.
We also received funding to develop a comprehensive understanding of the City of Nelson’s food system and food security issues. Through community consultations we will create an inventory of community assets which support food security, identify gaps in the system and determine local priorities. As we are looking at the whole food system, producer related issues will be considered.
We also partnered with SEEDs to bring the movie Ingredients: The Local Food Movement takes root to Nelson. We are also members of Community Food Matters which organizes events such as Seedy Saturday.
Why does the NFCS incorporate support for local agriculture/production into its activities?
We support local farmers whenever possible because we want to be responsible participants in the food system.
We have a policy to source all food from local farms, backyard gardens and locally-owned businesses wherever possible. The purposes are:
- To reduce long-haul transportation pollution and the community’s reliance on imported food.
- To offer customers a variety of nutritious, organically raised and produced food.
- To limit the volume of food wasted, dumped and composted, and to reduce the frequency of bear-human encounters.
How does procuring local food affect your clients?
- We have a policy to provide 5 fresh fruits/vegetables each day to our clients. Our clients enjoy fresh local vegetables and eggs that are highly nutritious. There is a clear correlation between healthy food and both mental and physical health.
- When we survey our clients, most people respond that our fresh produce and eggs are what they appreciate most about the Nelson Food Cupboard.
- Some of our clients have been involved as volunteers in the Harvest Rescue gardening – learning new skills, building friendships and enjoying the many benefits of “giving back” to their community.
Where would you like to see things go from here?
The Food Cupboard would like to be able to source more of our produce from local suppliers year round. We’ve also made it part of our current strategic plan to increase fresh produce sourced in the community by 10%.
On a larger scale, we know that the region is not able to supply year round due to a complex interplay of issues: lack of storage, not enough public awareness around the difficulties facing farmers, lack of political will, unrealistic attitudes that food should be cheap, difficulty for young farmers to get access to affordable land. We’d like to see our community overcome some of these challenges.
If you could speak to the Kootenay Co-ops shoppers/members directly, what would you like them to know about the NFCS and its commitment to local suppliers?
Our policies reflect our core belief that social justice, and a healthy regional food system go hand in hand. We believe that access to healthy food is a human right, and the extension of that is a need to support those who are part of creating local healthy food.
What are the Nelson Food Cupboards range of programs/activities?
- Food bank – It is open two days per week and offers barrier free access to free food for anybody in our community needing this kind of support. We aim to serve a lot of healthy food and meet people’s diverse food needs.
- Harvest Rescue – A harvest gleaning program that allows local gardeners and fruit tree owners to share excess produce with volunteers and the Food Cupboard
- Grow a Row and fresh produce donations – Encouraging local gardeners to drop off surplus garden produce to the Food Cupboard during our open hours or by appointment.
- Food Recovery Partnership – A partnership with the Hume Hotel where we receive excess food from the kitchen, repackage it, and hand out to our customers.
- Holiday Hampers – At Christmas time we prepare and distribute 170 hampers to families and individuals in need.
What other initiatives are you planning?
We will be hosting an event called “Chew on This” in October to coincide with Homelessness Action Week and World Food Day (October 16). It is a challenge to community members to eat for one week on ONLY what they receive from food banks and Our Daily Bread (ODB) to develop greater understanding of what it is like to eat when one lives in poverty. This involves a kick-off event at the beginning, and a wrap up at the end. At the kickoff event we will hear from our customers about their experiences of living in poverty and trying to eat. The Participants will be invited to share their experience at the wrap up event.
The secondary part is a “Eat the Math” online survey that allows anyone to plug in what they think it would cost them to live for a month, and then have that compared to what they would have available for food if they were making minimum wage, on disability, or social assistance.