November 2021 Update- Food insecurity: grassroots to the UN

November 2021 Update- Food insecurity: grassroots to the UN r1 ...

November @ SOVI

CREDIT TO MEREDITH STERN.

This is a one color print about food justice. In dark green ink the text says, "Cultivate Community Driven Food Justice, Accessible, Humanely & Locally Grown, Affordable, Sustainable for the Land & People." The image is of a person holding a clump of dirt with a plant growing to be transplanted into the soil, and another person’s hands are resting on the hands in a loving gesture of care and collaboration.

FEATURE INTERVIEW

This month, we’re focused on Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger. Food security must be addressed at every level, as insecurity is impacting folks in 'Greater Victoria,' across 'Canada,' and globally, every moment.

The Community Fridge is a free fridge and pantry in Greater Victoria. This location was inspired by other existing community fridges across Turtle Island that work to address food insecurity through mutual aid. The design allows it to be a low barrier and accessible way to access food support in a decentralized and non-hierarchical manner. It’s run by a group of people who think it’s important for people to access food for free: take what you need and leave what you can. Katy DeCoste has been involved with the Community Fridge since it opened in May of 2021. She spoke with SOVI about the fridge, and the group’s goals to build community through food.

Why did your team at Community Food Support create the mutual-aid Community Fridge?

Community Food Support, our sister project, is a program which delivers food hampers to people in the community. In doing this work, the team saw a need that couldn’t be met by hampers. Folks may not need weekly deliveries, may not have an address, or the ability to receive deliveries. So, they began the Community Fridge to provide people with a different kind of agency and choice in accessing food. Now, they’re closely connected but separate projects. The use of Community Fridges has also increased across Turtle Island since COVID-19. So, we’ve been lucky to have tons of examples to look to and be inspired by. It both supports people in different ways and reduces food waste from households and businesses.

Is the Community Fridge and its goals different, compared to other initiatives tackling food insecurity?

In my mind, I divide food security initiatives into charity and mutual aid. The Community Fridge is somewhat unique to both; we operate on a principle of solidarity, not charity. We don’t differentiate between people who receive support and those who provide it. We believe you can do both; so I may take excess produce to the fridge, and then leave with dairy. It creates a non-hierarchical, non-paternalistic space in our community. No documents or forms, no orders, no cut-offs, no person there to talk to if you use it.

This is a bit different from other mutual aid, because it’s not a regular event. With the fridge, you use it when you need and you take only what you want. We’re trying to establish a dialogue with the community to see what people would like to see, including by having a survey at the location and on social media. Then, we can circulate the information and say, “People need halal food, pre-made meals, and hydration.” It’s a way to share food outside capitalist systems.

What has being part of the Community Fridge taught you about local food (in)security?

It’s taught me how pervasive food insecurity is in Greater Victoria. Food insecurity looks different for everyone; it’s not only unhoused people, or families experiencing it. It’s students, folks with disabilities, seniors, and people with full-time jobs.

I’ve also seen how stigmatized accessing food support is. An important part of changing that is disrupting the narrative of, “there’s people who help, and there’s people who get help.” Part of building a resilient, more close knit community is supporting the idea that one person being provided for makes the whole community stronger. It’s empowering when people can access food that fits their needs. Not just any food, but something that fits religious or dietary needs, or is simply something you want to eat. Choice and agency is important.

The biggest thing for me has been learning that food scarcity is constructed by capitalism. We get boxes upon boxes of food that isn’t sellable, but it is completely edible. I always knew waste was a problem in our food system, but seeing it first hand has made me more cynical. I now see how willing we are to throw food away before giving it to someone else to eat. We’re trying to interrupt that.

How can we work to make our food systems more justice-oriented? What must change?

What I’ve learned from folks in my community, and those in farming and gardening, is that settler colonialism destroyed food systems on Turtle Island that were justice oriented. There’s no way to create just food systems without landback, which I say as an uninvited settler. There’s no viable way forward within our capitalist system without landback. From my perspective, the people most impacted in this current food system must be supported to lead the new system- Indigenous people, Black people, disabled people, and those with other marginalized identities.

Some people may not know that our modern ideas of mutual aid come from the activism and services of the Black Panthers. They provided free breakfast to kids, everyday. This model of simply giving people food to make your community stronger comes from decades of activism from Black, and Indigenous peoples. We have to acknowledge where our current principles come from.

How can folks in the community help and support the Community Fridge, and Community Food Support?

If people would like to take food to the fridge, you can at any time of day. We can’t take raw meat, and all prepared foods must come from commercial kitchens, for food safe reasons. The fridge is always in need of food- and it’ll be appreciated. We also take diapers, sanitary products, water bottles, coffee, tea and the like. We do accept monetary donations through our open collective, where you can make one-time or monthly donations.

We like to keep the fridge and surrounding area clean too. Folks can clean it when they’re there, or if you want to make it a regular event, we have a sign up sheet. Also, we host bi-weekly open meetings to let our community know what we’re doing and what support we need.

The best way to keep up with us and to engage is through Instagram!

CHAPTER NEWS

While the SOVI team is having a quiet autumn event-wise, we remain busy internally! As our team shifts and expands, we’ve been asking: What is SOVI? How does, and should, our team operate? This opportunity for self-reflection is a lucky one. We appreciate the time to ensure our work is intentional and to brainstorm how to improve, while acknowledging our successes too.

Currently, we are preparing to welcome new team members, looking forward to our 2022 Unconference, and conducting assessments of our past and present events and programming.

Per usual, if you’re interested in getting involved with any aspect of our work- from the Anti-Racist Community of Practice, to volunteer roles, to helping with the Unconference- please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re so grateful to our community, who inspire our work and help us grow. Thank you!

RECENTLY

Image shows the 17 illustrations of the Sustainable Development Goals in various colours, with Goal #2 Illustration is by Laura Beckman, it is a Black person's hand holding the root of a beet, in a symbol for food justice.

There were several global summits and gatherings related to food insecurity in the past few months. COP26 wrapped up last weekend, where activists, scholars, and leaders discussed how climate change is intertwined with food insecurity. The City of Vancouver joined hundreds of local governments worldwide in the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration pact, which acknowledges the huge role food systems have in producing greenhouse gases. Signatories must weave food policy into their climate strategies, while encouraging their national leadership to do the same. Though, some argued COP26 failed to adequately account for how food systems should be included in climate negotiations and policy. Similarly, the September UN Food Summit on Food Systems was heavily criticized for its lack of substantive direction or solutions to food insecurity. In direct response to the UNFSS, the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems emerged. This Global South-led counter summit focused on creating just, equitable, sustainable food systems and the need for a radical transformation. Food (in)security will continue to be a local and global issue, as climate change rocks the food and agriculture sectors.

In October, Toronto adopted a plan to help mitigate food insecurity in the Black community- the first of its kind in North America. Across Canada, Black and Indigenous households face the most food insecurity. Food insecurity within these communities began with colonization, when access to food was used as a weapon of control and as a tool of genocide, as settlers also stole and appropriated food-based knowledge. Part of this new plan in Toronto is prioritizing sovereignty over charity, and ensuring Black folks are the leaders of all initiatives. This approach is designed to target the groups most impacted by food insecurity, and to solve it with “culturally-rooted nutrition programs, access to growing space, Black food markets, and infrastructure like community kitchens and sustainable funding.” To learn more about creating justice-driven and decolonized food systems in Canada, listen to “Making our food fairer” from Don’t Call Me Resilient. Hopefully, food justice advocates across Canada will be inspired by this work, and push to see it replicated locally. A great example of folks already doing this work in the Capital Region is Iyé Creative- check them out!

WHAT'S NEXT...

  • Food Security on Vancouver Island: A Panel Discussion I November 18th I Capital Daily
  • Surviving the System: Know Your Tenancy Rights | November 18th I SOCC + NSU + Students' Open Forum Against Racism
    • This workshop will cover some of the rights that the Tenancy Act provides for folks who are renting, and will also be a space for you to ask questions about your tenant rights. This session will cover a variety of tenancy topics, including: what your rights are when you are engaging with your landlord, what notice is required under the Tenancy Act, what your rights are around renoviction, and potential pathways to address racial profiling relating to tenancy.

    • Details and registration, here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/surviving-the-system-know-your-tenancy-rights-tickets-192045121127
  • Cool Aid Food Drive I November 20th I Cool Aid Society
    • Cool Aid's Downtown Community Centre is hosting a Food Drive with St. Michaels University School students to collect non-perishables for our Community Pantry! This trusty pantry has been an incredible resource for our neighbours who do not have the security of knowing where their next meal is coming from. Please join in on the festive spirit of giving and make someone's holiday special this year.
    • For more info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CWW4pBnPdRH/
  • Indigenous Perspectives and Approaches to Climate Action I November 22nd I CIRCLE UVic
    • Learn from Melina Laboucan-Massimo, founder of Sacred Earth Solar, and current Healing Justice Director at Indigenous Climate Action. Melina has a Master's degree in Indigenous Governance, with a focus on Renewable Energy- find out how these studies coincide at this online presentation!

    • Details and registration, here: https://uvic.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcqcuqprjwpGNDoghari5fEO8U6JBOGlm7K
  • The Good Food Gathering I November 26-27 I The Good Food Network
    • The Good Food Summit is an annual networking event that emphasizes cross sector collaboration, networking, skill building, and highlights the Good Food work happening in the Capital Region. Join the gathering for opportunities for networking, learning, showcasing success, and thinking critically about how to move forward in our local food system through weaving connections to the land!

    • Register: https://www.goodfoodnetwork.info/the-good-food-summit
  • Youth Survivors and Dating Violence: Let's All Recognize the Signs I November 25-26th I Battered Women's Support Services

    • To launch the international campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, 2021, we are delighted to invite you to event. Intimate partner violence in high school and on university campuses is an everyday occurrence —still, there is so little recognition of the prevalence and very little discussion about it. Eternity Martis's keynote will highlight the prevalence of dating violence, the experiences of young women, femmes, and non-binary people, and what high schools and universities can do to address it.

    • Details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/youth-survivors-and-dating-violence-lets-all-recognize-the-signs-tickets-211820459697

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“Food is the first fight.” - Wendie Poitras

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SOVI is based on the stolen lands of the Lək̓ʷəŋən Peoples (known by the colonial name of Victoria, BC). To contact us directly, please write us at r34.

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