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Event to explore sustainable food options

Food Matters Manitoba wants community’s help to develop healthy local food systems

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Evan Bowness hopes community members have an appetite to take an active role is local, sustainable food initiatives.

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Evan Bowness hopes community members have an appetite to take an active role is local, sustainable food initiatives. Photo Store

The idea of more people having better access to healthier food is a tasty prospect for Evan Bowness.

Bowness is an instructor at the department of sociology at the University of Manitoba and a key local volunteer organizer of an upcoming event held by Food Matters Manitoba.

"As a community, how do we make a more sustainable, inclusive food system?" said Bowness, who lives in Osborne Village."

The open-to-all event will be held on Mon., June 24 at 6 p.m. at St. Vital Knights Villa (537 St. Anne’s Rd.) and is a followup to the St. Vital Community Food Assessment, which was previously conducted by Food Matters Manitoba to create a plan of community priorities regarding numerous food topics in the southeast Winnipeg neighbourhood.

In short, a community food assessment brings together individuals from across the food system to develop an evidence-based strategic action plan that identifies existing food assets and pinpoints future community priorities for food planners.

In light of St Vital’s rich agricultural history of market gardening and dairy farming, which were an important part of the area’s economy, the results of the assessment revealed some interesting results.

For example, the community is home to 175 food-related businesses. St Vital residents spend around $200 million annually on household food purchases, and the average area resident lives 1.34 kilometres away from a grocery store. People still want to grow food — yet in 2010, there were more than 50 families on waiting lists for community garden spaces.

Assessment results also show a diverse demographic and socioeconomic community, which is home to a growing number of newcomers and visible minorities and also to some of the city’s wealthiest and lowest-income neighbourhoods (including in that fact that many low-income individuals rely on using taxis to transport groceries).

In health terms, the assessment shows approximately 70% of St Vital residents are overweight or obese and approximately 65% do not eat the recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables.

"We want to get the community’s attention and build awareness," Bowness said, noting the organization has a partnership with the St. Vital Agricultural Society and hopes to grow ties with the Bishop Grandin Greenway and the Harvest Moon Society. "Our main hope is to get people together and talk about potential local projects."

The upcoming event will include presentations from potential project pitchers and networking opportunities, Bowness said.

"Everybody learns from each other."

"Food as a community issue is picking up a bit of momentum right now. And food is so social and cultural, as we all eat together. This is an exciting event and we are hoping for positive outcomes."

Kelsey Evans, FMM’s northern logistics co-ordinator, added the event will "serve as a catalyst to bring community members together with stakeholders to develop networks, generate volunteers and plant the seeds of ideas."

Although space for the event is limited, individuals are invited to turn up on the night, as there are no tickets.

For more information, email Evans at kelsey@foodmattersmanitoba.ca

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