Two weeks ago, SFU City Conversations featured an emotional debate on Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport expansion plans on farmers’ fields protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve. As in this debate, the aspects of local food production and food security were also central issues in today’s City Conversation on “The Romance and Reality of Urban Food”.
In his introductory remarks, Peter Ladner, author of the excellent book “The Urban Food Revolution”, made clear that we are living in an era of unprecedented threats to urban food security. In particular, climate change (reducing grain yields), water shortages, population growth, biofuel competition for land, corporate agribusiness concentration (seeds), health issues (obesity, diabetes, etc.) and seafood decline are putting tremendous pressure on our food system.
As a reaction to this insecurity in food supply, people want to have more control over their food. They want big corporations to change the way they do things and to have more choice and more local options. According to Ladner, demand for local food is the number one trend in Canadian restaurants today. Moreover, community gardens, farmers markets, urban food culture movements (slow food), school gardens, indoor and verticrop growing or rooftop greenhouses allow urban people to reconnect to their food and have positive effects on community building, public health or downtown beautification.
Here in Vancouver, many great projects and organizations like SOLEfood’s new Downtown Vancouver site, the new Seedstock community currency, the growing Urban Farming scene, the Ethical Deal Vancouer green shopping community or the LOCO BC local business initiative are contributing to the increasing demand for local, organic and sustainable food. Nevertheless, local and organic food entrepreneurs are still struggling for a viable business model as the whole food system is based on cheap labor and large-scale industrial agriculture and because many people can’t afford or aren’t willing to pay higher prices for local and organic food.
So, one major challenge is to convince people that food is not a cheap product but one of the most important things in your life, to reconnect people to their food and to show how local food can contribute in a positive way to their communities, the environment and the planet. And let us not forget the hidden costs of industrial food…