It’s time to have a #VanFoodConvo.
The Gordon Neighbourhood House has made it their mission to expand the conversations around food in Vancouver. Last Thursday at Heartwood Community Café, the questions “What’s With the Ethnic Aisle?” and “Why is the Food Movement so White?” were thrown to an impressive panel of Vancouver food advocates who had no shortage of things to say about the supposed lack of diversity in the food movement.
I say “supposed lack of diversity” because all of the members of the panel answered emphatically that the food movement is not white. It is rather the consumption based ethics of the mainstream environmental food activism which excludes many people of colour. This movement is often quiet about inequality, migrant workers, food sovereignty, cultural appropriation, and many of the other issues we face to build a more just food system.
It’s capitalist logic that tells us that buying expensive organic produce from a farmers market will save the planet, but doesn’t examine the reasons why that food is inaccessible to many or what impact corporate farming has had on many small farmers, both those who have immigrated and those who are born in Canada.
I spoke with Stephanie Lim of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank and Vancouver Food Council afterwards who was clear that part of the problem is the lack of food education in our public system. Lim said that many of the young people who they have spoken to had seen some of the larger environmental films, like Cowspiracy, but that the moral focus of these documentaries made the barriers for ethical eating too high for kids who might come from various backgrounds, and may not have the know-how or opportunity to cook for themselves. It’s good that there’s focus on the environmental impact, but it can shut out so much of the conversation when it’s centered on the morality of “eating green.”
Food security and food justice will continue to be a large challenge facing our future, so we will have to start by thinking about what we can do in the educational system and what we can do at home. Moderator Lily Grewal emphasized how important it is to know the stories of the foods which make it to our homes. Just learning about the series of hands that has touched one of the foods we eat is a start, because we can then share those stories with our communities.
Thanks to one of the spaces that focused on having food conversations, Heartwood Community Café, which will be closing its doors in August. Look out for more programing from The Gordon Neighbourhood House in the coming months.
-Sydney from The Media Democracy Project