Climate Change, Food and Waste: join the conversation at Resetting the Table

Derek Leahy is a writer and farmhand based in Ottawa. He co-led the Eat Think Vote campaign in 2015.

As someone who has drifted between the climate and food justice movements over the years, I am pretty thrilled to see that climate change (along with food waste) will be one of the topics under discussion at Food Secure Canada’s 9th National Assembly.  The timing couldn’t be better too.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers will finalize a pan-Canadian climate framework plan later this month, laying down the policy framework for Canada to finally get its growing carbon footprint under control (hopefully). The food system will play an integral role in Canada’s success or failure in implementing this plan.

To start, agriculture makes up roughly 10 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from the sector rose 22 percent from 1990 to 2014, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Agriculture is by no means one of Canada’s biggest ‘climate culprits’ like transportation or the oil and gas sector, but this trend of increasing emissions from farming will need to be reversed if Canada is going to be a climate leader.

These aren’t the only emissions associated with our food system either. It is estimated that Canadians throw out $31 billion worth of food annually. As the David Suzuki Foundation points out: When people throw food out, all the resources to grow, ship, package and produce it are wasted, too, including massive amounts of water.”

So how are we going to address this? How can the climate and food movements learn from one another and work together to cut emissions? What must we do to make sure everyone in Canada enjoys a healthy and vibrant food system in the face of climate change?

Through our food, we can also address climate change head on.

Here’s a list of panels that may interest you if you feel like you are a child of two movements like me:

Climate change, Food and Waste

Good Food Comes From Good Seed: How Regionally Adapted Seeds Build Food Security in the Face of Climate Change

Aabir Dey, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, USC Canada/Everdale; Jane Rabinowicz, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, USC Canada; Bob Wildfong, Seeds of Diversity; Kim Delaney, Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds

For the past three years, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security has been supporting the movement to build resilient seed systems in Canada. This session will focus on the Bauta Initiative’s national programs that 1) conserve biodiversity in gene banks and community seed collections, and 2) introduce new ecological field crop and vegetable varieties through innovative farmer-breeder collaborations. These field-based programs can shape new discussions on agricultural policy, and on the need to prioritize biodiversity conservation, agricultural extension, and public plant breeding to build a resilient national seed and food system.

Our Power: Lessons from Food Justice for Renewable Energy Organizers

Keith Stewart, Greenpeace; Donald LaFleur, CLC; Utcha Sawyers, Food Secure Canada / FoodShare; Representative from Toronto Renewable Energy Coop TBC

The movement for community-controlled renewable energy faces many parallels with food justice organizing.  The projects are often community-led, require new regulatory policies and structures to thrive, do best when backed by diverse coalitions, and face well-organized corporate opposition with millions to lose. This session will begin with a panel sharing perspectives on parallels and potential learnings between the two movements, then break into smaller groups to explore specific lessons, strategies and case studies from the food movement, to help advance community energy organizing. Join us and help build cross-movement power for clean energy and food justice in Canada.

Food Waste in Canada: Unpacking the Problem and Promoting Innovative Solutions

Chair: Tammara Soma, Project Manager, Food Systems Lab, PhD Candidate University of Toronto Expert Panel: Annette Synowiec, Manager, Solid Waste, City of Toronto; Jocelyn Molyneux, Vermicomposter, Waste Not Worm Farm; Dave Kranenburg, Social Innovation Lab Facilitator, Rhizome Institute; Nick Saul, President and CEO, Community Food Centres Canada; Indigenous Leader TBC

It has been six years since the first report quantifying the cost of food waste in Canada was published. Despite the staggering amount of food wasted in Canada (estimated to cost $31 billion dollars annually), there is currently no concerted effort to address the issue at a national level. Dominant solutions and ideas promoted to tackle the issue focuses on stop-gap solutions rather than systems-based solutions. Without understanding the root of the problem and unpacking the issue, we risk exacerbating the problem. This panel will feature six experts from academia, the public sector, urban farming, the social innovation lab, community food justice, and Indigenous peoples. The objectives of the panel will be to explore diverse perspectives and discuss interdisciplinary solutions to the issue of food waste in Canada.

The Leap Manifesto & Food Justice

Katie McKenna & Bianca Mugyenyi, The Leap Manifesto; Jim Thomas, ETC Group; Sally Miller (Independent), Others TBC

The Leap Manifesto has garnered widespread attention for its call for a transition to a clean energy economy in Canada based in principles of social and economic justice. Among the documents’ demands are calls for “a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system” in Canada, and “immigration status and full protection for all workers.”  Join us for an interactive panel and workshop designed to draw on participants’ knowledge and experience to strengthen the Leap Manifesto as a policy and organizing tool, and broaden the coalition around it.

How to Start and Run a Fruit Rescue Program   

Carrie Regenstreif, Fruit Rescue Networking Group (moderator); Sue Arndt, Executive Director of Not Far from the Tree; Laura Reinsborough, formerly with/founder of Not Far from the Tree; Katrina Siks, Hidden Harvest Ottawa; Getty Stewart, FruitShare Manitoba

There are dozens of fruit rescue programs, in which volunteers collect surplus fruit and share it with people in need, in communities across the country, each a little different. Speakers from Not Far from the Tree in Toronto, Hidden Harvest Ottawa and FruitShare Manitoba will provide a wealth of useful advice and help participants avoid the many potential pitfalls of taking on such a project. The session will also be invaluable for those involved with existing programs at all levels of development. Topics will include how to get started, social enterprise and other funding models, and how to survive on a tiny budget.


What Climate Change and Food Waste topics would you like to see discussed during Resetting the Table? Join the dialogue: