Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

“…if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”


Food deserts. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. South Central Los Angeles is one big food desert. What is a food desert? It’s a place where you have lower to lowest incomes, fast food outlets everywhere and a not a fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. Ron Finley lives in South Central. He is an artist and, obviously, a big idea guy. He started using city land to grow food and his story is awesome. Here is his TED talk from this past February.

I’m thinking now about how to make gardening more gangsta. We need more local produce. That is becoming clear in my research. We need more to increase supply to meet the growing demand, more to increase competition and keep prices realistic. A challenge I’ve discovered is to how to make it sustainable to be a farmer. If farmers can’t earn a decent living, we won’t have any farmers. How do we balance that decent living with food prices that average people can pay?

“Funny thing about sustainability is that it has to be sustainable.”

Urban farming is a huge piece of the puzzle. It grows food that is accessible to those who need it, often at no cost to them. It teaches youth about where food comes from and what it takes to make it happen. As Ron says, “if a kid grows kale, he eats kale”. I love what Ron is doing. Fresh Roots and Sole Food Street Farm are doing similar things in Vancouver.

Food security is what we call a “wicked problem”. It is like a hydra with whipping tentacles everywhere. It will take people like Ron Finley; Ilana Labow and Marc Shutzbank from Fresh Roots; and Michael Ableman and Seann J Dory from Sole Foods to contribute to slaying this beast. I hope to add my shovel to the battle.

Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

Eat Your Own!

Ilana Labow and Marc Schutzbank are such an inspiration! They know about the hidden connections between the things we consume and the people who provide them. They have personally been in places like the Congo — home of the longest running war in history and where violence and rape are the norm — where the metals that run our phones and other gadgets are mined. They shed light on the farms in North America where the workers are unfairly paid and work in poor conditions. Marc says,

“We can change the way the world functions by changing the way we eat.”

There is a ripple effect in every choice we make as consumers. When 74% of students in a survey didn’t know that tortilla chips contained corn, we need to better understand what is in our food and where it comes from. Locally grown food brings the chain of production down to a human scale and allows us to see exactly how what we consume is produced.

Ilana and Marc are Co-Directors of Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society. They have created urban school farms in Vancouver with the help of VanCity and many, many hands. They have created neighbourhood food assets in the places that most need them in the city. They have helped create living classrooms and awareness of where our food comes from.

I invite you to watch the first 30 minutes or so of this video where Ilana and Marc speak at Creative Mornings Vancouver. They are such inspiring leaders and I thank them for helping to inspire me. (And thanks to Mark Busse for his incredible energy in making events like this happen!)