Coordinating a response to food insecurity is going to be getting easier in the Strathcona area, thanks to the new Strathcona Food Security Coalition.
“We wanted to give an update to the community on the food security work that’s been happening. We have recently gotten funding from the United Way that has allowed us to post for a Food Security Coordinator position,” said Kimberley Toonders, a public health dietician with Island Health. “That allows us to look at expanding the work that is happening in the rural and remote communities as well as Indigenous communities that are rural and remote in our area.”
The funding also will help get started on some projects, and determine a terms of reference and help coordinate the response to food security in the area.
The group was convened after a May 25 community conversation where people working in the food security field met to build relationships and share their work. That conversation highlighted a number of issues and opportunities, including challenges for commercial fishers to get to local markets, opportunities to map private gardens, the need to promote community awareness of food security as a pillar of health and others.
“I was really happy with the diversity of thoughts and interests that we had,” Toonders said. “these are kind of common long-standing issues.”
On top of that, smaller communities like Sayward, Zeballos, Ehattesaht and Kyuquot and Gold River all do not currently have grocery stores, and thousands of people are served by the Campbell River Food Bank every year.
However, with the diversity of issues, a coordinated approach is needed. That is where the new coordinator will come in. That person — who has not been hired yet — will help make sure that barriers between organizations are broken down, while making sure that efforts do not get duplicated in the process.
“We’re really hoping that person can apply for additional funding and do more community outreach to get more people involved who might be interested,” Toonders said. “We’re looking at extending the work to include things like increasing local food production. There’s interest in things like market gardens and stuff like that. Lots of different areas along the food security continuum that we’re hoping that person can help to advance.”
The food security continuum is a concept that looks at food security in terms of three stages. Stage one is short term relief and includes things like food banks, soup kitchens and farm aid. The second stage looks at capacity building, including community gardens and kitchens as well as buying clubs. Finally, the third stage is about system redesign, or looking at policy, social justice networks, coalitions and councils.
“Because there is that immediate need for emergency food relief, that can be where a lot of time and energy goes,” Toonders said. “It’s more about trying to step back and look at the broader picture and root causes, looking at increasing food production, food access and also it comes with being an income issue and needing to address poverty and other social determinants of health.”
“Historically, a lot of the funding can go to that emergency food relief,” she said. “It’s systems change, the other stuff is incremental and takes longer.”
The coalition will be holding meetings on the second Thursday of every month at 10:30.