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Express News - 11.21.07

"Food for thought"
Local food conference points to challenges and hope

Anna Kirkpatrick

A B.C. food crisis is in the near future unless action is taken quickly, delegates to the Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference heard.

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"We hope to inspire you to be the change you want to see," said conference organizer Andre Piver in his opening remarks.

The next day's presentations provided some tangible examples of the change that is possible. Jon Steinman, host of Kootenay Co-op Radio's Deconstructing Dinner reported on this summer's eat local challenge.

Over the month of August, 150 people in the Nelson area challenged themselves to eat more local foods. Steinman interviewed seven challenge participants about the difficulties and rewards of eating locally. Participants encountered several obstacles. They failed to find replacements for coffee and struggled to find local sources of grain. One participant noted that sourcing local food often involved more driving.

On the positive side, participants gained a deeper appreciation for the region and its farmers. They learned about new foods and methods of preparation. In one case, they discovered that pets can eat local too. Some participants deepened their connection with the local food system by volunteering on nearby farms.

"I realized how dependent I am just on Mad Dog Farms. So, I started going up there, and just volunteering there and seeing how they farm, and being a part of it, and I just felt a lot more connected to food," said one participant."

The eat local challenge has sparked some spin-off initiatives. Realizing that local grains are hard to come by, some Nelson residents have started to investigate setting up a community supported agriculture program with grain farmers in Creston. Steinman is excited by initiatives of this kind.

"There was a problem recognized by eating locally and there was the solution presented right there," he said.

For Steinman, the Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference was inspiring and empowering.

"You are now the people who can do something about this," Steinman said.


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