Meet Derek Barnes – the marketing, partnerships, and outreach guy for “The Local.” He has been a chef, a front-of-house manager for the Stratford Festival, a cyclist, a collaborator, a traveler, and a foodie.
He has a very interesting take on food security, climate change, and sustainability and it made me think!
The Local Community Food Centre in Stratford is always humming. The second community food centre in Canada, its mantras are cook, grow, share and advocate.
Programs include three weekly community meals; daily classes to teach people food skills to cook healthy, delicious meals even on a restricted budget; community garden and greenhouse programs, including the planting of an edible forest; several low-cost community access markets in Perth-Huron where people can purchase local, fresh, healthy food at affordable wholesale prices; and a social justice club and peer advocacy program where community members experiencing poverty can work together to target the root causes of food insecurity.
As for climate change,“it is a root cause of food insecurity,” says Derek. “Food costs are rising, so are transportation costs. Extreme weather is leading to lower harvests and increased procurement costs, and it impacts the less well off and vulnerable the most.”
Globally, the UN World Food Program has highlighted the potential of climate change to increase food insecurity and malnutrition, due to increasing floods, droughts, storms, and sea-level rise, especially in the developing world.
In Canada, climate and social justice advocates directly connect social issues with effective climate action. Inuit leaders in the far north say that health, well-being, and food are as important to address as infrastructure and carbon emissions. The Leap Manifesto and the Pact for a Green New Deal — two Canadian visions for action to respond to the climate crisis — include food justice.
Here’s where Derek and The Local have compelling responses in action, and maybe even partial solutions!
Food security, first of all, benefits from a zero-mile diet, hence all the programs supporting local and regional vegetable gardens and gardening.
Add to this their deep efforts to create community locally which responds to a critical determinant of health – social connection. The community kitchen reduces isolation and promotes friendship — at the frequent meals people from all walks of life come together to prepare and offer several community dinners each week, talk with one another, and share stories about life and gardening. The kids are even developing sophisticated tastes for what a made-by-them pizza can really taste like.
As Derek says, “When you grow it you become more keen on variety, and you are in control of your food environment. That’s personal power.”
The generosity of local growers, and the donation of meat protein, means a family or an individual can purchase healthy food at The Local at reduced costs. They can even take home seeds and plants for their own gardens. The Local is truly a Community Food Centre, and not a food bank. It reduces social stigma and other barriers to eating good food.
Derek shared a great story about a local school which was growing tomato seeds for a science experiment that had to do with germination here and in space. The kids had tomato plants left over and wanted The Local to distribute them.
“Seventy-five percent of the kids knew about The Local, some whose families used it. In fact, about fifty percent of all the volunteers have used The Local at some point in their past and have come back to help other families become more independent.”
For Derek, The Local is not the whole solution to food security, but he believes that everyone working together will create political will over time to ensure equitable access to healthy food.
A recent news headline warned that “the rich will save themselves in climate apartheid while the poor suffer.” Not here, if the people and the programs at The Local have anything to with it!
Everyone can access The Local, and even eat there. I know you will receive a warm welcome from everyone.