Hello, welcome to Righting Our Relations with Food, a podcast series where we meet with guests from across the country to discuss food security and food sovereignty, and how we can make changes to our food system with a focus on Canada. Righting Relations is a national network of adult educators and community organizers working for radical social change, and the series is part of a larger project on food sovereignty and the sustainability development goals. So if you're interested in learning more, please check out our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Today, we're excited to share with you the first part of a roundtable discussion on youth food security and intergenerational food activism. This discussion was recorded at our national agenda 2030 conference in March 2022, where we welcomed Brendan and Ben from Food Not Bombs Edmonton, Kathryn Lennon from Hungry Zine, Cassidy Daskalchuk from the University of Regina Student Union Pantry, Olivia Boyce of the Brandon Manitoba Food Council, and Karen Secord of the Parkdale Food Center. In this episode, our guests introduce themselves and talk about their work.
Welcome, everybody, just gonna get started with our next discussion. First of all, I just want to introduce myself, my name is Miriam Sainnawap, and I'm the Righting Relations coordinator for Winnipeg Circle. This is our last roundtables discussion that we're gonna have for this evening, and I'm actually quite excited about it, and also like very thrilled to be able to lead that discussion. We have young and up-and-coming folks who are involved in the work of food security, who've been working diligently in terms of addressing some of the challenges with it. And so they are going to be giving us information about their experience, and really just sharing from what they have learned. I guess before like going on, I do also have a podcast that I had created over the summer. It is available online, I had the opportunity to interview different people from across Canada, which I had, was fortunate to really learn and listen to the people who are involved in different facets of food security. And I guess just also thinking about food security and how so much of it is also connected to land, I guess I was kind of like really struck with what the presentations that have gone so far and just kind of like made me really think of like how vital the land is, in terms of being able to feel that connection to it and be able to understand our role in it as being able to take care of it and also for it to take care of us. Anyway, so like without further ado, I just want to go around - we have about five participants with us. We have like three sets of questions that I'll be asking each one of them that they'll be able to answer. And I guess first of all, if you could introduce yourself, and the first question that I want to ask is, so what are you doing to address food security? First, let's start with food, not bombs in Edmonton.
So Brandon and I are both representing Food Not Bombs YEG; Brandon's kind of got more theoretical knowledge on this stuff. And I'm more a guy who gets out - uh, so does Brandon, frankly, everybody in our organization does - gets out and, you know, does a lot of the work on the street. Yeah, so I'm Benjamin. I'm a school bus driver by day and by weekend, and sometimes evening. I'm helping out with Food Not Bombs Edmonton.
I'm Brandon. I use he him pronouns. And yeah, I work with Food Not Bombs Edmonton, I helped found the chapter back in 2018. So every time I have to answer this question, I forget like half of what we do, because there's quite a lot of it. The primary thrust of our organization is taking food that would otherwise go to waste or that we can just get for free or for cheap, and redirecting it towards hungry people, whether that's houseless people or families that for whatever reason are having trouble affording groceries. We also have a community garden that we run a collective squat garden in the Fite Avenue area of Edmonton. We have a community fridge that we have run - oh shoot uh, Ben, help me out here because I'm gonna forget like 90 percent of what we do
Yeah, so my wife isalso involved and she is kind of our point person. I won't say leader or manager because we're a non hierarchical organization. But she's our point person for our helping the humans program, we call it, where people make meals, usually meals that they're just cooking for themselves, they'll make extra food. And they will deliver to somebody who is suffering from temporary food insecurity. So like somebody who say, is waiting on employment insurance to come through for that month or somebody, we don't check. We take it out, we take them at their word, if they say they're hungry, we will bring them a meal, usually a hot meal. And occasionally we will do groceries as well. But not as often, our main thrust is for the meals to make sure people are essentially sharing meals with us. And that way, it's food coming out of our pantries that we're giving to people.
And we also try not to just restrict ourselves to thinking about things in this very, very liberal and atomized and individualized way of just food security, where it's it's exclusively about consumption, and we're only thinking about it in terms of quantity. And if we're really smart, maybe quality and access. We're trying to think about it in terms of like, do people have control over the production and distribution of their food. And so we don't just work within the context of getting people food, we're also working within the context of okay, protesting against wars and imperialism, we're working within the context of, you know, ensuring that people have housing, we're also working within the context of ensuring that people have Naloxone training, and that there are people walking around in Edmonton with who have the knowledge and equipment to actually administer Naloxone. Were working within the context of okay, well, there's a union that is currently being busted, how do we support them, right. So a good example of us getting, like better informed about this and really, kind of expanding our practice. Last year, in the early autumn, a couple of our members went out to Secwepemc Territory to kind of be with and support the Tiny House Warriors. And so we got to participate in that and ended up kind of as a, an ad hoc, impromptu action having to provide jail support. And one thing we saw when we arrived is we were like, really prepared to be working all the time and serve all these meals. And so we like prepared 400 meals beforehand. And then we got there and we're like, this entire place is coated in blueberries, and, you know, people are bringing in salmon and it this is a community that has some degree of food sovereignty. And a big part of why they are fighting to protect that is to protect their food sovereignty as well as their actual sovereignty. But they can't really have that if there's a pipeline running through if there are, you know, if there are environmental threats, if they're getting taken to jail if women are being hurt and abused, right.
Yeah, we I think we work on a lot of different fronts. And I think we view all of it as you know, working towards our kind of greater goal, we are an anti capitalist organization, that is a huge part of what we are. And food sovereignty for us is is a key part of that because it's part, like food is like just the key to building a good community and a, you know, a unified people. You know, every culture has different practices and rituals surrounding food. I think that's part of building any community is sharing food. And so for me, a lot of this is sharing food as part of a ties me to my community and is a big part of, I think, supporting just one another in moving forward and hopefully getting further along as a society to remove hate and division where we see it.
Okay, well, thank you for that. So I'm just going to move on to, we have someone from Hungry Zine, Kathryn.
Hi, I'm Kathryn and I'm one of the founders and editors of Hungry Zine, along with Kyla Pascal, who couldn't be here today. So I'll be representing us. So we create a food focused publication. We are pretty new. We've been around for about a year and we create this food food community food publication that is focused on centering radical foods, stories, art and culture. And our work is, I guess, a little indirectly connected to to food, food security, but Kyla and I both had done a lot like different types of work in community in like food industry in food policy. And we came together to create this publication because we felt that there are really important voices missing from mainstream food media and the way that food storytelling is typically done. And so I think like when we think about, I guess the ways that we're addressing food insecurity, food is relationships, food is story. Food is storytelling, food is sharing knowledge. And that's all very central to what we do. And I think another another thing that motivated us was that in the work that we were doing, we found that our own voices, as BIPOC women, more diverse voices are very absent, I guess, or it's hard to get those voices and perspectives through. So, you know, going from our own experience, we thought like Who else's voices are missing from this work. And so, our work is, you know, we are working to create a platform and to create a space and create community for, for hearing other voices. And we are based in Edmonton in Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, so it's also important to us to be centered in the prairies and kind of bring forward voices in our own communities and create opportunities for, like emerging writers and illustrators and designers to get their stories out there are emerging and established, like, we're interested in kind of, like, multigenerational, you know, hearing from people who have been writing forever, and people who have, you know, their first time ever being published. So yeah, that's a little bit about what we do. I'm sure I'll get to tell you a little bit more in a bit. Thank you.
Thank you. All right, we have, Cassidy can you introduce yourself, and what are you doing to address food security?
Hi, everyone. I'm Cassidy. I actually work at the University of Regina Students Union as the Food Security Coordinator there. So yeah, more of the nonprofit. And we focus on food insecurity and both like the short term and the long term. So we provide immediate relief to students who are experiencing food insecurity, with different programs and services. So we have a URSU Cares Pantry, which is a biweekly event that supplies students on campus with free groceries and clothing and toiletries. This past fall, we just opened up a community fridge on the University of Regina campus. And then next week, we're actually opening up a community fridge at the First Nations University campus. We also run a community garden in the summer called Community Roots by QR. So the community garden is an opportunity for students to come together and learn about gardening while providing themselves and also their fellow students with fresh produce. And then community roots also has an indoor hydroponic garden that we actually utilize in the winter so we can continue to grow leafy greens and herbs in the cold Saskatchewan ones. And then I guess, through each of our programs, we put a really big importance on involving volunteers to give students the opportunities to feel empowered and help one another. Oftentimes, the students who are utilizing the programs are also the ones volunteering. So we want to place an emphasis that the services are for everyone, and anyone can volunteer and whether it be a student who doesn't have time to go to the grocery store, or a student who forgot their lunch to a student who's experiencing high levels of food insecurity, we just want to build a really inclusive food community on campus to reduce the stigmas that are associated with receiving assistance from the Students Union. We're also super focused on our community connections to ensure the success of our programs. So we work within the food security community of Regina, we work with the other community fridges in the city, so we can utilize all of our skills and resources to make a much stronger collective. And then we're also partnered with meal exchange, who helps us run monthly cooking classes to bring students together through food and through conversations about food. And then I guess on like the larger scale, we have an advocacy team who advocates for students rights by holding campaigns for tuition freezes, leveraging the voices of students who are experiencing barriers, and then just working hard to diminish the systemic inequalities that students face on campus. I've also been fortunate to work with the City of Regina mayor and then food security stakeholders in the city to create more, I guess, actionable solutions to address food insecurity on on the larger scale.
Thank you. And we have our next guest, we have Olivia.
Hello, everyone. Well, it's so great to see you guys and to hear all the work that you're doing. This is really cool. I like this group. Good Energy here like I saw in the chat as I agree with that. So my name is Olivia Boyce I am out in Brandon, Manitoba. So it's also pretty cool to be representing Manitoba from Brandon, you always hear of Winnipeg, but we're the little town next door, I guess. So we've been doing some pretty cool things in Brandon and I started the Food Council a couple years ago. 2019 officially was our start after holding stakeholder conversations. And it's been interesting because of the pandemic obviously kind of makes you pivot pretty quick. Luckily, we had a really active group at the start of the pandemic. And I'd say that's one of the strong points of our food council. So we had some people say, you know, I have a kitchen, I have staff and some people were like, well, can we make a meal program or something like that, as we were able to create a Pay What You Can meal program in 2020, right at the start of the pandemic. And it was really good to be able to start something as you know, as a lot of industries and programs were shutting down, we were able to come in and meet needs as as they arose. And that kind of grew and spun off into a food rescue grocery store, we were able to accept food donations for the program. So a lot of the donations would be like Oreos, or Kraft dinner or things that don't go into meal, or it wouldn't be enough to make the quantity of meals, we're making 100 meals. So if you get, you know, a few chicken breasts, it's not enough to make into lunch and meals. So we started this grocery store just in December, we're only a couple months into this pilot project, I'm still calling it, but I've been, I've been the one kind of, um, down on the ground and actively in the in the grocery store. So right now we're renting space in the Blue Door Project, it's called. So the BNRC, our neighborhood renewal Corporation, started this, it's a drop in center for folks who are unhoused. So we're renting a space in there. So it's also an interesting kind of integration or a merging of very different demographics. And folks who don't normally interact. Yeah, so that's my, my introduction, I guess.
All right, thank you. We'll go to Karen.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for inviting me. I'm Karen Secord from the Parkdale Food Center in Ottawa. So, the Parkdale Food Center, learned a bit about outdoor community fridges from perhaps some of your organizations in Edmonton, and I believe in Regina, that have outdoor fridges. We just installed our first outdoor community fridge, although we have seven of them indoors. You know, this is kind of a big question, you know, what are we doing to address food insecurity and poverty? You know, we started out as a as a food bank 40 years ago. And when I started 10 years ago, I quickly realized as a middle class white woman that what we were doing was absolutely not enough. And in fact, not only not enough, but not right. And so I see that Priscilla said earlier, talks about radical thinkers. And I can see that those of you who are on the panel are also radical thinkers. And as the only employee at the time at the Parkdale Food Center, I quickly realized that I was a radical thinker too, and, and challenged the food bank model of giving people a can of food. And quickly we, we moved from, from a food bank type model into a health center. And by doing that, by making that connection between food and health, and by challenging the way that people were being treated well, we not only lost all of our volunteers, but we created a whole new system that engaged people who we call our neighbors and and started building programming around that. So we now run the food rescue program in Ottawa. We run a number of youth programs, like I said, we have seven community fridges across the city, we built a community kitchen. And so we now have three chefs on staff. We have 24 staff that run all kinds of different programs. We do cooking workshops, both virtual now because of COVID. We gave out, I think, about 40 Chromebooks to people and paid for Internet service over the last two years. We started the Ottawa Community Food partnership, realizing that other people, other organizations, weren't where we were challenging the food banking model, that food banking is a way to get industrial, de industrialized food out to people. And it's, it's a way for philanthropists to feel like they're doing good and to get tax receipts. And that it, in fact, is not helping the health of anyone, I might argue that food banking is detrimental health outcomes. And so we wanted to change that we, we said we wouldn't accept food that wasn't healthy. And so we started cooking and hiring chefs. But anybody who wants to come and cook and can come and cook, so anyone can can be the chef at one of our cooking workshops. And we encourage people, for example to to come in, make food in our kitchen and stored in our fridge so that if you didn't have a place to cook, for example, you could just come and pick that food up, we give a crock pots to people. We are particularly concerned about all of the families living in shelters and in motel rooms. And I guess I'll will speak later about youth programs. But we created this partnership, the Ottawa Community Food partnership, to help other organizations develop good food policies and to start talking about the role that good food plays in everyone's health. And we gave them community fridges, but we also when COVID hit, I'm sure many of you also realized that many of our neighbors who are making, you know what we call Ontario Works, or welfare or disability, all of a sudden couldn't get to meal programs like ours, where they came to have breakfast every day or down the road where they had lunch, or all of a sudden they didn't have access to those things. And they didn't have money to buy food. And they counted on on on us for those meals. And so I made a I made a connection between food businesses and social service agencies. And we started paying food businesses to continue employing their their staff to make the same quality, wonderful food that they were making. But to make it for social service agencies. And for the last two years 20 food businesses have remained in business, and they've been giving food up to 5000 meals a week, just 31 social service agencies and at harm reduction sites, for example, people are the nurses and harm reduction workers are saying for example, people's wounds are feeling healing foster people, author's cure escalations, people are gaining weight, and they can count on food the same time every day, seven days a week. And so there's much that can be done. When you create a community right now we we are working with the community center where many of our neighbors across the city have never gone into community centers before because they never felt that they were welcome or they could afford any programs. And we have free fresh food markets and we give out chef prepared meals every Friday. Unfortunately, with the cost of food I, I see that, you know, unless we really work to address the human right to food. We're going to be doing this forever. And so we must, we absolutely must all of us, we must advocate to the government, that they have to stop abdicating their human rights responsibilities to charities.
Thank you. Thank you for listening to this month's episode of Righting Our Relations with Food. We would like to thank our wonderful guests for sharing their knowledge and their insights with us. And from everyone here at Righting Relations Canada, we would like to thank our partner, the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights, and of course our funders, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and Employment and Social Development Canada for making this project possible. And we hope you'll join us again next month.