Kale Force meeting of March 12, 2008

March 13, 2008

The Kale Force met again on Wednesday night this week, with about 14 people in attendance. As always, we spent some quality time at the beginning, eating the food that people brought, and catching up with each other. Then we went around the room and everyone introduced themselves and said a word or two about what they were doing there, what their interests were in food security, and so on.

I gave a pretty long-winded spiel about some of the stuff that is going on in the Food Security Project. Besides the obvious stuff like Seedy Saturday this past weekend, and all kinds of other administrative overhead (bleah), the most exciting new development is that I went out to Sliammon a couple weeks ago and had a very positive meeting with Laurette Bloomquist, Dawna Pallen, and Rose Adams of Sliammon Health; and Maureen Adams from the band office. They’re all very concerned about nutrition and access to good food out there, and our meeting was a first brainstorming session to see if we couldn’t get something going to tackle the problem. We shot around a couple of ideas, one of which would be awesome if we could make it happen: a weekend-long picking & canning/drying festival to provide for canned/dried fruit for the community, to be used especially for elders and others really struggling during the winter months. Now I just need to keep working with them to see if we can’t chase down some funding for that idea and make it happen. Whew.

The demonstration garden is moving along well, and there will be a work party next Monday (March 17) to plant the fruit trees. Starting this week, Friday afternoons will be a regular meeting time in the garden for anyone who wants to connect with the team of folks who will be taking care of the garden now that the youth project is slowly winding down. We’ll be meeting from 1:00 to 4:00 PM in the garden behind the Community Resource Centre to plan upcoming activities, workshops, and work parties; and also to dig in and work on the garden. So come on out and see what’s happening there!

Another thing that’s happening is that Kimberley Murphy-Heggeler, the new volunteer coordinator of the Good Food Box, is keen to start boosting the profile of that program around town. She has met with Georgina Kendrick, who runs the Food Bank in town, and it looks as though there may be some way for those two programs to partner, since the Food Bank is mainly in the business of distributing non-perishables, whereas the Good Food Box distributes produce. It would be good to connect the two together. Also, Kimberley and I are thinking about getting local businesses and individuals to sponsor a Good Food Box by paying the low low sum of $12 per month. We need to work on a campaign to raise awareness, and hopefully start getting the community on board with the idea of signing up for a one-off box or a year-long subscription. There are plenty of places in the area who would happily distribute boxes of produce to their patrons.

The star attraction of the evening was Sue Moen, from the LUSH Valley Food Action Society over in the Comox Valley, who told us about all the activity over on their part of the island. They’re working on a centralized hub for food distribution, food preparation training, small business incubation, and social connection for people on the margins. It sounds like an excellent project, and similar in some ways to some of the activity that is starting to coalesce around the Community Resource Centre in Powell River. I’ll be keeping my eye on what’s happening across the strait, since we can certainly learn from what they’re doing.

We brainstormed a bit about how we can start to spread the word about the need for more local growing. Most of the people present were feeling a lot of anxiety about the gap between where we need to be in terms of production, and where we’re at. But in some ways it’s tough to reach out to the unconverted, or to people who never think much about where their food comes from and the hidden costs of food trucked in from thousands of miles away.

We certainly need more activity, and more outreach into the broader community. This is obviously part of what I’m funded to do by Vancouver Coastal Health. But somehow we need to build up a team of people who are willing to take on some of this effort. I had hoped that the regular Kale Force meetings would provide the impetus for this sort of thing; and maybe over time it will. I’m not sure yet how valuable it is to have a regular meeting which is informal and more about connecting people together than it is about trying to make sure that every meeting is full of activity and learning. There is a place for both sorts of things, and sometimes I find that an endless series of meetings which are tightly scripted leaves you feeling hungry for opportunities to just connect and talk informally, strike up casual conversations and let ideas just brew naturally.

It’s possible that the regular Friday meetings in the demonstration garden will provide the more action-oriented venue, and Kale Force will continue to work well as a more social event. I want to hold the options open a little, and let things evolve naturally as much as possible.

What’s your opinion? Any ideas for future activities?