Urban Food: An Introduction
4 million Canadians face food insecurity today. That is a startling number, considering that we live in such a wealthy and resource-rich country. It’s not that we don’t have enough food - $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada every year. Our real problem is of food distribution. One of the factors contributing to this poor distribution is that we are more disconnected from our food sources than ever before. Think about where the things you ate today came from. I had a banana from Ecuador, tea from India, and cashews from Brazil. This type of imported food, from packaged non-perishables to fresh produce, is easily accessible and often cheaper than local food. When we live in a globalized food system, it is not surprising that we have lost touch with how our food is grown. Did you know that cinnamon is really ground tree bark? That cranberries grow in bogs? That pineapples grow on the ground? The photo below is of me discovering this in Hawaii at a pineapple farm!
Of course, here in Edmonton it’s a bit too cold to grow tropical plants. However, even for the crops grown in Alberta, those of us who live in cities tend to be unfamiliar with the long journey food goes on between the farm and our dinner tables. What if we could reconnect with our food sources, grow more affordable food, and build community all at the same time? This is the solution proposed by urban agriculture, which includes things like community gardens, urban fruit trees, and backyard chicken coops. You may know of some examples of urban agriculture here in Edmonton, which were probably influenced by Sustainable Food Edmonton.
Sustainable Food Edmonton (SFE) is a non-profit that helps communities and schools make urban agriculture in Edmonton a reality. Their website states: “We connect communities and kids with their food, how it’s produced, and the planet that makes it all possible.” SFE began in 1989 and has since helped create over 90 community gardens, 56 classroom gardens, and 8 high school gardening projects. SFE was an Emerald Award finalist in 2016, and over the next couple weeks I will be featuring one of SFE’s newest programs, Urban Ag High, in a series of articles here on the Green Medium.
As an Urban Planning student at the U of A, I am keenly interested in how we can transform cities to be more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. I believe that a shift to more local, community food production is key, and has to begin with educating the next generation of food producers and consumers. Dustin Bajer, the coordinator of SFE’s Urban Ag High program, agrees:
“The role of education is to help students discover their thing. And that might be growing food, that might be eating food, that might be preparing it, and unless a student is exposed to it, they might never discover it. Those students will often go home and start gardens, or join community gardens, or go out into the workforce and pursue jobs around food and agriculture.”
Come back to the blog in a few days for my full interview with Dustin!