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Putting food on the table

Communities gather to harvest ideas, exchange information about keeping healthy food on every table
Satoko and Sarah Harrison dig in to the subject at a Squamish community meeting about building a Sea to Sky food network. Photo by Vivian Moreau

Moms with babies, 30-somethings in jeans and T-shirts, grandpas in ball caps and carefully coiffed women all sat down to share a noon-day meal at Squamish United Church last week – and talk about food.

Over 50 people showed May 17 for the first of three town hall-style community meetings aimed at discussing how to get food to your table.

Sponsored by Sea to Sky Community Services Society, with funding from Vancouver Coastal Health’s Act Now program, the meetings were open to the public, practitioners, and business people interested in sharing information about available resources, but also in brainstorming solutions to existing problems.

"The meetings are focused on what is already working in the community and the notion that our communities are full of resources and capacities that we need to unleash," said facilitator Kate Sullivan.

"With mill closures, funding cuts to welfare and women’s transition houses, the rising cost of fuel, people are resorting to food banks more frequently," Sullivan said. "Food bank users have moved from street people to working families."

Sullivan, along with organizer Lydia Szymanski, the society’s dietician, hopes that by bringing together all facets of community representatives an awareness of local food sources can be realized.

Pam McLeod is a mother who has used the food bank and says she came back in the hopes of giving back something to the community.

"And from my perspective I was surprised how many resources there are that I was totally unaware of," she said.

Whether it was a fruit tree project in Squamish or a community greenhouse in Pemberton, facilitator Sullivan said people need to understand "the network of networks" available.

The meetings, also held May 18 in Whistler and Pemberton, will be complemented by an alternative symposium, or open space event, for the public that will present the information derived from the meetings. Scheduled May 30 and 31 at Spring Creek Community School in Whistler, Sullivan says the open space event will consolidate ideas raised at the three community meetings in order to come up with an action plan.

"It’s beyond the issue of food," she said. "It touches on homelessness, environmental and social justice issues."

A report on the meetings will be compiled for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the province’s Act Now program, a Ministry of Health initiative that encourages British Columbians to live healthier lives.