Embracing Transition: Food Secure Canada Looks Ahead at a Board-Staff Retreat

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 10:42am

Powerful stories and symbols inspired and guided Food Secure Canada’s Board and staff retreat. Meeting together for three days in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal in early April, Elders Kenneth Deer and Sonny Diabo of the Kanonhsionni on:we (Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy) Kanien'kehá ka Nation, welcomed our group to the territory in Kanyen'kéha (Mohawk language). Together they shared stories of Kanien'kehá ka Nation’s histories and some of their most notable successes on their path of colonial resistance and Kanien'kehá ka resurgence. The story of the negotiations of the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) from a Kanien'kehá ka perspective with the weaved notions of the time, delicacy and sometimes painful experiences it took to negotiate this imperative instrument resonated throughout the weekend. The imagery, histories of resistance, resilience and persistence shared was at the forefront of planning for the Board and Staff.



At a time of transition for FSC it was opportune for the incoming Board, many of whom are new in this role, to meet with staff and a representative of FSC Youth Caucus. After seven big years, Diana Bronson, Executive Director is moving on and her successor is about to be announced. Melana Roberts now chairs the Board. Ten years of successful, collective campaigning for food policy action are about to be realised with the imminent launch of Canada’s first Food Policy. Federal support for a national healthy school food programme was announced in the Budget 2019. And it’s an election year.

Resetting the Table, FSC’s 10th Assembly held at Concordia University in November 2018, marked a critical time in the organization’s history and brought to the fore tensions increasingly present within the food movement as a whole. While many aspects of the Assembly were appreciated and much of the feedback received was positive, many people felt unsafe and excluded. The ongoing, difficult and necessary work of reflecting upon and actively addressing racism, and fostering a stronger, more unified and inclusive food movement, shaped the discussion and planning at this retreat.


From the Infinity Symbol to the Values Circle

An infinity symbol sits at the heart of FSC’s current Strategic Plan, because movement-building and policy change are envisaged as mutually-reinforcing and interconnected goals, with organisational resilience located at the crossover point. Staff presentations laid out how the kitchen table to cabinet table (and school lunch table) approach is playing out, and the core operations that underpin the work.

In turn, the Board briefed the staff about their priorities since November, including recruiting a new Executive Director, exploring governance and membership models, and post-Assembly responses and relationship re-building and building.

Concretely, joint Board-Staff task forces were set up to take forward work on Values, Governance, Membership, Assembly and Nominations (to the Board), informed by the rich exchanges at the retreat. The concept of balance and how to hold the tensions inherent in the movement and the work came up repeatedly. The very first iteration of a Values statement for FSC emerged, visually represented as a circle. This seems foundational and will be advanced through a participatory process.


The Next Six Months

Alongside the deep reflection and longer term planning, the Board and staff kept in mind the internal and external milestones and pressure points that will mark the next six months for FSC. These include:

  • Appointment and integration of new Executive Director

  • Canada Food Policy launch announcement expected

  • Staff and Board participation in Canada Association for Food Studies (CAFS) assembly in Vancouver, and other meetings on the West Coast

  • Eat Think Vote 2019 campaign

  • Federal Election, October 21st

  • Food Secure Canada AGM, November (TBC)


Conviviality and Celebration

Naturally, enjoying good food together was part of the retreat. Staff leveraged their local knowledge and contacts to bring great food and a welcoming atmosphere to the Pine Collective, where the meeting was held. Diana Bronson was celebrated at a lovely dinner prepared and hosted at the Centrale Culinaire.

Retreat participants, April 7, 2019
Photo credit: Rachel Cheng