Food Matters Manitoba (FMM) hosted its seventh annual Growing Local Conference in downtown Winnipeg last weekend.
The three-day event saw participation from dozens of organizations involved with food issues – including local food shares and sustainable gardening groups, branches of government, and NGOs.
Workshops and talks were held Friday and Saturday covering topics from the sustainable management of insects in horticultural crops, to reducing junk food consumption through policy initiatives.
Kreesta Doucette, who is the executive director of FMM, spoke with the Manitoban about the conference.
“The strength that we have in Manitoba is really around the food security community. Manitoba as a province, actually, has one of the strongest movements, and that’s because of the diversity of the partners that come together. The conference is spearheaded by [FMM], but it’s been so successful because we have such strong participation from all these vibrant groups.”
One of the main themes of this year’s conference was food sovereignty in the North, and addressing the inadequacy of healthy and affordable food in many northern communities.
Andi Sharma is a policy analyst with the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative who attended the conference.
“We are a granting organization, so we work with community partners that are on the ground operationalizing our policy objectives—like [FMM]—to do things like starting greenhouses, teaching gardening skills, and generally giving the people living up there in these remote communities [renewed] control over their diets,” she said.
U of M doctoral student Asfia Kamal studies environmental science and is involved with Northern food security issues. Kamal shared her research at the conference in past years, and attended this year.
Kamal has been working on projects in numerous communities that experience very high rates of food insecurity – where people were going hungry and only able to access processed unhealthy foods.
An outcome of these projects is that the community members of South Indian Lake have reclaimed some of their traditional food gathering methods that were lost when the community was forced to relocate due to flooding from a hydroelectric project in the 1970s.
“When we, as graduate students, talk about community-based participatory research, we need [to] go out there [and] live the realities that [these communities] experience every day. We should go there ourselves and work for change,” said Kamal. “My research has changed my life, that’s why I’m here, and that’s why I go north. I’m holding hands with my community members – they are like my family.”
Moss discussed his recent book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, which investigates America’s food industry and its complicity in creating the current obesity epidemic in the country.
Moss spoke to a sold-out audience at the Masonic Temple at Confusion Corner, taking questions and signing copies of the book after the talk.
Richard Frost, chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Foundation, spoke with the Manitoban about the importance of the Growing Local Conference, and why his organization lent its support.
“The whole idea is to create more of a conversation on these issues of food security, and proper nutrition – to raise the profile and bring it to people’s attention. So we were able to give support and help to bring in a high-profile person like Michael Moss to get people’s interest and raise some awareness around these issues. And every year FMM does this wonderful conference, so we are very pleased to be able to support this.”