Food issues crucial to community

Jan 31, 2013

Food issues crucial to community

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Food issues crucial to community
Food Policy Council organizers seek community buy in

Grassroots Sudbury Media Collective

First Nations concerns and philosophy is now permeating Canadian society-even in food activist circles- thanks to the surge in grassroots organizing in past months by Idle No More and the attention it has drawn from all quarters.

For example, The Greater Sudbury Food Policy committee opened their inaugural launch Thursday Jan. 17, 2013 at Tom Davies Square with a number of First Nations drummers, not only to bless their community forum, but to learn from their speakers why food is so sacred to Aboriginal cultures as an introduction to their session.

“Food is a big part of our gatherings,” Perry McLeod-Shabogesic, director of the traditions program at Shkagamik-Kwe  Health Centre, said. “Food gives you life.”  He said while blessing the gathering of 33 food activists and interested people that in his culture “food is medicine” and that “good food is good medicine”. Furthermore, “we need to honour  food because it comes from The Mother (Earth),” he added. He and his two colleagues called in the spirits of plants  and animals to be in attendance of the food meeting because food comes from “living breathing beings.”

Peggy Baillie, manager of Eat Local, then gave a talk on the three year history of the attempt to create a local food policy council and what other councils had done elsewhere. “A food policy council is a broad concept where  a group of stakeholders get together to talk ideas and policies as to what our food system should become,” she  said. Safe sustainable local food production and distribution was becoming an issue in the community, she noted.

The meeting was facilitated by Yves Doyon, a respected member of the francophone community who has done a lot of  work with community organizations over the years. He decide to employ an “open space” facilitation method where “whoever comes is the right people”, where “whatever happens is the only thing that could have” and “when it is over, it is over”. He asked the participants to come up with subjects, themes, topics, challenges and possibilities  to “help shape, validate, and give life to our local food policy.”

A draft report sent by Doyon to organizers of the event this week ranked topics in order of importance by participants at the Tom Davies session.

1. Connecting Consumers and Producers
2. Edible Landscaping/Public Produce
3. Healthy Food Accessible to All
4. Attracting & Supporting Local Sustainable Production
5. Compassionate Diets
6. Food Security and Climate Change
7. What Does A Food Policy Council Do
8. Knowledge of What is Healthy Eating
9. Connecting Consumers & Producers Who Are Distant

According to Doyon`s draft, some of the elements under the topics included: curbing development and preserving topsoil, encouraging local food in supermarkets, starting a community seed bank, ensuring seeds are climate adapted, increasing the number of existing community gardens, increasing gardening education about fundamentals of growing healthy crops, promoting season extension methods and rooftop gardening, eliminating inhumane farming practices and increasing food accessibility. Other aspects included: supporting networking and research amongst those in the food sector, valuing food preparation and skills even in elementary schools, and educating consumers to make responsible decisions in buying food.   

The report, when it is out of draft form, should be available to the public through members of the organizing group for the food policy council or contact info(at)

A community food assessment, infrastructure for local food processing and distribution, and training and support for new farmers are also priorities that have been previously identified by local food groups (1).   

As stated in the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Survey, “Food Policy Councils connect diverse people from the food, farming and community sector to develop innovative policies and projects that support a healthy food system. Food Policy Councils can improve regional food plans, leverage community resources and identify and advocate for policies that support a healthy food system. Food Policy Councils share knowledge and foster collaboration and communication.”   

The opening of this event brought home the importance of including First Nations content and perspectives in the continuing work of the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council.

Interested people who would like to put their names forward for a council position should contact organizers such as Bridget King at the Sudbury and District Health Unit or Peggy Baillie at the Eat Local store on Larch Street.  Those interested in contributing their ideas can also complete the on-line survey.  


William Peter Bradley is a local writer working on a number of publications concerning those who have been progressive champions for the city. Visit his website.


1.  Grant, N.  2011.  Moving Forward as a Sustainable Community:  Lessons learned from the local grassroots environmental community, during a series of unconferences on the topics of EarthCare Sudbury’s Local Action Plan.