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Spring Gillard
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Talking Food Security in Kelowna

Many years ago now, I met Ruth Mellor when she came to the compost garden where I used to work. I paid her a visit in Kelowna to see her community garden at the back of the Unitarian Church, the only one in Kelowna at the time. Ruth and the gardeners wanted to expand and put more gardens in, but the City wouldn’t give them any land. I did an interview with Judie Steeves at the Capital News about the upside of community gardens. Judie did a series of articles. Ruth and her team continued to negotiate with the City with guidance and input from folks with the Penticton and Kamloops community gardens. Now they have seven community gardens under Central Okanagan Community Gardens (COCG) and have helped several schools, senior facilities and a YM-YWCA youth outreach centre with their garden plans. There’s also a vibrant food security group there and they’ve come up with a community food action plan and a draft food charter.

Special thanks to Ruth for organizing my talk up in Kelowna. To Lisa at Urban Harvest for helping to spread the news. The talk is being funded by COCG, Okanagan Greens and Interior Health (IH) in support of increasing food security in the central Okanagan. The IH money is coming from the Community Food Action Initiative through the BC Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport. This is very important funding for neighbourhood and municipal groups working on food security throughout the province. These groups are involved in projects that respond directly to very local needs. Afterall, food security can look very different to a coastal or aboriginal community than to the City of Kelowna or Vancouver. Regional Health bodies have been very active in these groups. They understand that to have a truly healthy and sustainable community, people need to have access to healthy food. Let’s hope Premier Campbell and his cronies realize that too when the budget comes down this fall.

Here’s a copy of the press release on my talk, with all the details.

For Immediate Release
August 2009

Feeding Ourselves: How Do We Fare?
An Evening with Spring Gillard
author, Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator

Wed. Sept 2, 2009 7 pm to 9pm
Kelowna Downtown Library, 1380 Ellis Street

Spring Gillard, author and former compost hotline operator has branched into food security. And what the heck is food security? Is it a plot by terrorists to contaminate the food supply? Or what the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is supposed to do to keep your wieners safe? Find out this and more as Gillard recounts her exploration of the food system in her neighbourhood.

“The lessons learned are transferable to other neighbourhoods,” she says. “The first step is basically taking an inventory of the food system in your neighbourhood.”

And what is a food system? According to Gillard, everything from table top to ground and back again. So the food we eat and how it gets to us, how it’s grown, produced, processed, packaged, transported, sold, and how the so-called waste is managed, is it thrown out, composted, is some of the food recovered and redistributed?

“I’ll be talking about some of the specific issues around food security,” says Gillard. “In my area it is access to fresh fruit and vegetables. We have a lot of low-income seniors with mobility issues. And often there is no produce store close by.”

She will discuss the farm connection and why even in cities we should be  concerned about preserving farmland as well as the charity/emergency food system and whether or not to give to panhandlers. And last but certainly not least for the compost aficianado, waste management and food recovery.

“I will link it all up with global issues as well. And give folks some ideas to strengthen the food system in their own neck of the woods.” Hint: growing your own food is one of them! And just a wild guess, but composting is probably another.

After abandoning a successful advertising career, Gillard worked as compost hotline operator for City Farmer, an urban agriculture group for 14 years. Her book Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator, Edible Essays on City Farming (New Society, 2003) recounts her adventures there. She has been published in numerous local and international media and is currently finishing up a second book; this one on the politics of food. She sat on the Vancouver Food Policy Council for two and a half years and now works with the Westside Food Security Collaborative.

Gillard resides in Vancouver although she was born and raised in Penticton, BC. Her parents and brothers are still in the Okanagan. In fact her family has deep roots in the area; her great, great uncle August Gillard played a starring role in the naming of Kelowna. A story she will probably tell on September 2nd.

Presented by Central Okanagan Community Gardens, Central Okanagan Healthy Food Council, Interior Health, Okanagan Greens Society.

Free admission. For more information: grmellor@uniserve.com/.

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