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Food-involved folks gather and make things happen at the Kamloops Food Policy Council

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Kamloops Food Bank. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

They were gathered around a long table up a long flight of stairs on the second floor of the Kamloops Food Bank building.  The Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) is a group of keen food-involved folks from a wide range of organizations and backrounds, with common visions to promote the strength of the local food system.

Each of the KFPC’s members comes from a particular place, and in that place, they are each making food localization a concrete reality, in all different ways.

The KFPC is where they come to collaborate, check in and connect.

Ed Walker is starting a revolution among chefs in Kamloops.  He is the chair of the school of culinary arts at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), and is also the founder of the Thompson-Shuswap Chef Farmer Collaborative.

The collaborative was started to link local chefs with local farmers–and as the best chefs know, the most delicious, quality ingredients come fresh, local and well-grown.  Walker said he wants to make it easier for local food to get into local restaurants.

The Chef Farmer Collaborative was started in just 2010, and has grown exponentially.  It is a non-profit, and to date boasts over 70 members, both farmers and chefs.

The Collaborative is modelled after the Island Chefs Collaborative started by David Mincey and based in Victoria, B.C.

At the Thompson-Shuswap Collaborative’s annual general meeting (AGM) coming up Feb. 12, it will be announcing its newest program–a non-profit loan system that will be available to offer no-interest loans to folks interested in starting up projects or with good ideas for increasing the productivity of an existing one.  The loans will be available to businesses, whereas the already-existing grants are available to non-profits.

The AGM takes place at the Culinary Arts building on TRU’s campus at 10 a.m.

Walker said he hopes to ultimately see chapters of chef-farmer collaboratives all over Canada.

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On the Culinary Arts building’s roof, there are animals.  Hive animals.  Walker’s colleague, another faculty member in the culinary arts program, is beekeeping up there.  He took a course and learned how to do it, and set up the apiary sometime last year.  More on this in upcoming blog entries, so stay tuned.

Culinary Arts is also trying to get a garden in front of its building, to grow produce for use in cooking.

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The Kamloops Food Policy Council’s AGM is also coming up; March 1 at 6 p.m. at the Henry Grube Centre, their AGM will be a potluck and meeting, and will be themed “Public Produce.”

Elaine Sedgman, a member of the group, will be speaking about edible landscapes in schools.  She said she hopes school gardens can become a more common feature in Kamloops.  She said Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project garden in Berkeley, California is one of her inspirations.

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In terms of edible landscaping here in Kamloops, there is a push to have more streetscape plants be edibles.

The Public Produce Garden here in town, built and first planted this past summer, is also going to be moving to the North Shore in summer 2012.

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One very interesting new local project is the Kamloops Community Food System of 1948 mapping project.  Check out their website.  The group is presently reaching out to schoolteachers in hopes that their maps and resources can be used in classrooms when complete.

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Another new local project that’s just gotten funding is Thompson-Shuswap Food Connections.  This group is looking to link institutional buyers such as the hospital, the University and the prison with local farmers.

Stage two of the project is planned to be a look at local processing facilities.

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Kamloops Seedy Saturday is an annual seed-swapping and workshop event that is happening Feb. 25 this year.  More details to come on this.

Seedy Saturday is a Canada-wide event taking place in many communities.  The idea is for gardeners to get together to share different seed varieties, especially but not limited to those bred and grown locally.

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There is a new community garden in Kamloops called the Wilson House garden.

The organizers of the garden recently received a TD Canada Trust “Friends of the Environment” grant to finish construction (which mostly meant buying the soil to put in the already-built garden).

All other community garden plots in Kamloops are booked for the 2012 summer season.  There are a few left available at Wilson House.

Here is a map with contact numbers for the community garden plots in Kamloops.

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Thanks for reading, and please come back for more information weekly.

Larkin

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Food brainstorms

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My investigation begins.  It began years ago, really, when I first became acutely interested in food politics.

I am in process of surveying local food issues, and will be attending the Kamloops Food Policy Council meeting this Wednesday.

I spoke with Anne Grube yesterday, who is a local organic farmer (Golden Ears farm) and mother of city councillor Donovan Cavers.  (Cavers also runs a local catering business that strives to provide local organic ingredients, Conscientious Catering.)

I’ve been brainstorming ideas for stories, thinking about what can be put in concrete terms that really delves to the heart of issues with food and the food movement, and speaks to what a wide audience is concerned about.  The best idea I have so far is to look at the pricing of organic foods vs. conventional foods, to look at the reasons and provide information that people can base their purchasing decisions on, or at least give some food for thought and further research.

I have an obvious bias in support of organics and local and sustainable foods, so I will just put that front and centre right here.  However I do not think this prevents me from delving in and reporting on the issue.  I hope that by being transparent about my beliefs and background I will be able to put forth some of the concrete things I have learned about the food system in my time, alongside new research, and presented in balance with other perspectives.  My aim is for us all to learn, and find our way collectively toward a food system we can believe in, and that is viable to create.

Any ideas, readers?  Anything you’ve always wondered about food or the food system?  Any things you think need to be heard about more in the media?  Write and let me know.  I want to know what folks are wondering and concerned about.

The ideas I’m playing with right now include:

  • Food recommendations and the official national food pyramid–how it came to be, and what factors influenced its development?  What do dietary experts have to say about it?
  • Food irradiation treatment–what exactly is it, and how does it work?
  • The Kamloops public garden is expanding to the North Shore in the spring, and this is of interest locally.
  • Kamloops grocery store waste–what is given away and where to, and what goes into the dumpsters?  (I used to procure a lot of my food from dumpster diving, but not in Kamloops, so I have first-hand experience of the vast amounts of food that are thrown away, and am curious about what is happening here in Kamloops.)  What regulations govern food donation, and what laws apply to dumpster divers?  How does this relate to poverty in town?
  • How much food do we actually have in Kamloops that is locally produced?
  • I had the idea to create an interactive online food miles calculator that would tell you where your food came from if you typed in the type of food, its brand and where you got it.  This does not exist on the internet that I know of, and it would be a complicated, extensive and ever-changing and expanding project.  I think it’s pretty far outside the scope of what I could accomplish in this course.  I am very excited about the idea of a project like this though.  This sort of database could link to a vast amount of information about environmental impact, farm conditions, predicted nutritional value, profiles of stores and what they provide, and more.  Very exciting.  The sorts of food miles calculators that exist online now are approximate and do not provide detailed information.  Here is one good one if you just want to calculate how far a particular item has travelled to get to you.  All you need to know is what country your food item came from.

I’ll continue brainstorming, blogging and reporting as the days and weeks go on, so stay tuned.

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