Feasting on ideas and innovation in Montreal

Montreal’s food movement came out in force and gave a warm welcome to participants from across the country joining Food Secure Canada’s (FSC) Feast of ideas for innovation in food, celebrated on November 10th. Despite the bitter cold, it was standing room only at the opening breakfast and a full house for the lively symposium. An evening of food, music and conviviality concluded the event.

Conference breakfast (presented by 100 Degrés)

A greenhouse, a community kitchen and a local market; according to Jean-Philippe Vermette from Quartier nourricier (‘nurturing neighborhood’) these are the three essential ingredients of a healthy local food environment. His clear analysis of the participatory politics and partnerships that lead to change was both practical and inspiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Federico Uribe - 100 Degrés

Symposium

Innovation is politically fashionable but social innovation attracts less buzz and finance than the technological variety. Montreal’s own Nancy Neamtan is on an official Steering Group that could change that (its online consultation is open until 31st December). Her opening presentation emphasized that social innovation needs to be part of systemic transformation, because the system is broken.

The symposium’s panels highlighted innovation in food in three areas: schools, healthcare and municipal food policies. The school panel celebrated innovation in classrooms and cafeterias across Canada, including how a New Brunswick network that leads with entrepreneurship has replaced commercial suppliers with community cafeterias in 26 schools.

The health panel brought together a cardiologist, a farmer and a hospital manager to showcase efforts to reconnect food and health by replacing fast or bad food with local, healthier options for patients and staff. Both the school and the healthcare sessions highlighted how kitchens are non-existent, inadequate or abandoned in many public facilities, which together with the de-skilling of kitchen staff makes it hard to do real cooking.

Representatives from Toronto, Vancouver, Sudbury and Montreal shared their experiences of how established and nascent municipal food policy councils work. The complexity of the system and the relationships that they navigate was impressive, underscoring the intersection of food policy with infrastructure planning, land use, transport and much more.

Lunchtime presenter Jim Thomas of the ETC Group gave a sobering reminder about how climate change and Silicon Valley are likely to be the biggest disruptors of our global food system. Industrial agriculture is doubling down with synthetic chemistry, synthetic biology, big data, block-chain technology and rampant consolidation along the food chain.

Two senior federal civil servants and a Quebec MP updated participants on recent political developments. Tom Rosser (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) informed about the recent consultation process for A Food Policy for Canada, which will be announced in May 2018. Hasan Hutchinson (Health Canada) is leading the revision of Canada’s Food Guide. The exclusion of commercial interests and the overall transparency of that process was welcomed. Finally, Jean-Claude Poissant MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, charmed the symposium with his story of making the journey from farmer to social organiser to politician (the family farm is still his heart).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening event

Delicious food, good music and a beautiful venue - a restored 19th century chapel that is now at the heart of a social organisation - made for a relaxing end to a long day. Pop-ups about insects, country food, seed-saving and much more continued the theme of championing innovation.

 

FSC 10th Assembly, Montreal, November 1-4th, 2018

Save the date - Concordia University in Montreal will host FSC’s next Assembly.

 

Thanks to all our partners, sponsors and volunteers who helped to make the Festin a success!