Food Security in Calgary

The May session of the Women’s Centre’s Social Issues Discussion Series focused on the vital issue of food security.  To address this topic, Renee MacKillop, the Project Manager of the Alex Community Food Centre was joined by Miriam Bankey, a Nutritionist with CUPS Community Health Centre.

The Alex Community Food Centre (CFC) will be opening this summer in Calgary’s Forest Lawn area – a place known for its great number of multicultural restaurants.  The CFC, the first of its kind in Alberta, is envisioned to be a place where people come to gather to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.  Food and its availability is often a lens for looking at many other ideas and issues such as income, gender, health and education.

Renee started off the session with a personal story. She grew up on a family farm near High River in southern Alberta where she was an active, young 4H club member.  After studying social justice and food sustainability at the University of Victoria and at the Food First Institute for Food and Policy Development in Oakland, California, Renee went back to the farm.  She shared a “eureka” moment when she suddenly realized that there was a connection with her work on the farm and the food produced and available for consumption by real people in real communities around her.  Sharing this realization inspired many of us in attendance to link our own “journeys with food” to the social issues affecting us and our respective communities.

Together, we also learned about the difference between food security and food sovereignty. Food security is when individuals have access to food and do not go hungry, while food sovereignty includes aspects like choice, quality, access to culturally appropriate food and workers’ rights. In 2012, 4 million Canadians were dealing with food insecurity. In 2014, Calgarians accessed food programs over 500,000 times. At the Women’s Centre, women called or visited for Interfaith Food Bank referrals 2820 times last year. Over 3500 emergency hampers were distributed during that same time.

Both Miriam and Renee facilitated lively group discussions including personal stories around the power of food and activities to visualize what food security could look like in a community.

They shared a few videos on how CFCs have grown in other cities and what programs are possible.

To learn more about the new Alex CFC, you can attend their Open House on June 18th from 12-4:00 p.m. or visit www.thealexcfc.ca.

Written by Peg Hofmann, volunteer and member of the Women’s Centre’s Social Issues Committee.

References

The Alex Community Food Centre, http://thealexcfc.ca/

Women’s Centre of Calgary, http://www.womenscentrecalgary.org/our-impact/the-numbers/

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