Creating a Place for Food (Pledge) Gathering

Our Food SENB hosted the 4th annual Creating a Place for Food Gathering on November 17, 2017 at Legends Restaurant at the Moncton Coliseum. The breakfast gathering presented an opportunity to connect, learn, and share with 60 attendees, and hear a keynote address and discussions themed around the Southeast NB Regional Food Pledge.

Our morning event kicked off with a 95% locally sourced breakfast created by Chef Matt Pennell and his team at Legends Restaurant. Sprout salad, eggs, local breads, housemade sausages, and bacon, fueled our minds and bodies while locally roasted coffee, tea and a generous contribution from Verger Belliveau Orchard kept our thirst quenched.

Jill Van Horne, Network Coordinator for Our Food SENB, shared the story of the Southeast NB Regional Food Pledge – a vision document that promotes a healthy, resilient, and sustainable local food system that benefits all. She shared where it started, where it is today, and where it might be headed. The Food Pledge, an initiative of Our Food SENB and approximately 40 network partners, frames the complexity of our food system into bite-sized actions to enhance our health, education, environment, local development, culture, and social justice around food. Not only does it remind us of the many ways food touches our lives, it’s a framework for putting food first, and making positive change in our food system.  The accompanying Food Action Adventure Guide includes tools and resources to start, complement, or expand on positive food actions.

Mayor Dawn Arnold (City of Moncton), and Mayor Ann Seamans (Town of Riverview) offered greetings and spoke to what it means to have adopted the Pledge as municipalities. They highlighted the importance of food and food security initiatives as avenues for both social justice, and local development. Both municipalities have action items related to food security within their social inclusion and sustainability plans; covering things like urban agriculture, community garden support and resources, micro grant programming, shipping container infrastructure, and support for school food.

In partnership with the New Brunswick Food Security Action Network (NBFSAN), keynote speaker Debbie Field, Distinguished Visiting Practitioner with the Center for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University, was invited to share her experience and knowledge around Food Charters and Food Pledges, as well as initiatives and projects she’s observed and lead over her tenure as Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto.

Field delivered an inspiring address; focusing on how tools like the Regional Food Pledge can help enhance action plans to build a prosperous food system in Southeast NB. During her visit to New Brunswick, she’s picked up a lot on the NB food scene which she weaved into her presentation along with other national, and international examples of success. Questions raised were could some of our successful school food programs expand to other districts to continue supporting learning and growth among our youth? How about government food subsidies support all citizens while ensuring our food producers are paid fairly for their work? She also informed the room that 100 years ago, New Brunswick was not only the wealthiest province, but was self-sufficient in food! Our minds were blown, and a sense of possibility was re-charged.


Photo Credit: Archie Nadon

Action style discussion tables tied to the Food Pledge followed with 42 participants who joined in on table talks. We asked which opportunities they saw for change around food in SENB, what was happening today around food in SENB, and how we could use the Food Pledge to grow this season’s food opportunities & actions. Minds and pens worked hard throughout, and we saw new connections shaping and a renewed energy. The harvest from that exercise is a whole other blog post!

Participant indicated feelings of inspiration and being hungry for more. 70% of our crowd filled out Our Food postcards to their future selves, as a personal reminder of food projects or inspiration they want to act on. We’re excited to send this correspondence back in about 4 months time. Some shared a feeling that we were missing more key players (local producers, food service providers, and local food champs) and there are still conversations around food that hold tension. That said, we’re up to the challenge of continuing to bring people from all areas with diverse opinions to the table to expand on and keep this conversation flowing. If you need to eat, we want to know what you think about food.

Until next time! #OurFoodAction

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