Thoughts on the Food Secure Canada 9th National Assembly

On October 13-16th, 2016 Ryerson University in Toronto hosted one of the most vibrant conversations on food movement and national food policy: Resetting the table, Food Secure Canada’s 9th assembly. This annual gathering brought together a wide range of actors who are involved in food policy discussion, including community activists, policy makers, food movement leaders, and many other stakeholders.

This year’s assembly focus was on building capacity to get involved with federal government’s initiative on developing a national food policy. There was an exciting mixture of pre-assembly meetings and tours, plenaries, exhibitor showcases, break-out sessions, and open space for dialogue during the four days. Programs were designed to cover several themes of importance for the food movement community including: agriculture, climate change, food security, food justice, food policy, healthy school food, food system, local food economies, and indigenous food sovereignty.

First day focused on trainings and meeting sessions as well as tours around Toronto. As new member to the food system movement and a researcher, I joined a bus tour by FoodShare Toronto to visit two of the neighbourhoods the organisation has been involved with (their previous and the new location). In the first neighbourhood, we visited one of the farmers market with amazing smell of wood-baked bread and lots of fresh produce of the season from local farmers as well as one of the grocery stores with ‘grab some good’ initiative and its transformation toward providing fresh fruits and vegetables. In the second neighbourhood, we visited FoodShare in its new location and watched the synergy between its programs ranging from school program to good food box to mobile market among many others.

The next three days were full of interesting discussions during plenaries, breakout sessions and networking events. I would like to share some of the interesting points that were mentioned during the plenaries and other events:

  • The importance of embracing traditions for finding pathways to transforming the food system. For instance, a local farmer said that sometimes innovation lies in going back to some of the traditional farming methods to insure sustainability. “for me innovation is marching forward to tradition” she said.
  • It was highlighted multiple times by speakers that arriving at an innovative food policy is rooted in seeing diverse set of interrelated actors and issues that need to be integrated as food policy; and is not only about food but also about interconnected pieces of our food system, agriculture, environment, health and economy. This calls for collective solutions and system-level change.
  • With the government’s initiative of developing national food policy as indicated in the mandate letter of the minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, future discussions need to build a fruitful dialogue to figure out the meaning of this initiative for different people around the country.
  • Many presenters shared the very important notion that ‘charity is not the solution to poverty and food security’.
  • For an inclusive food policy, a diversity of voices need to be heard with a holistic and integrated approach. That is why ‘indigenous food sovereignty’ was one of the core discussions during the assembly highlighting that food system challenges are not apart from recognizing urgency of issues related to legacy of colonialism, residential schools and indigenous food sovereignty.

Thanks for Food Secure Canada and team as ‘Resetting the Table’ was a great venue for integrating voices from a variety of thinkers and leaders with different perspectives into many invaluable dialogues. I’m sure lots of great actions and further discussions will grow out of this event.