Youth Caucus at the FSC's 8th National Assembly

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In a dark hotel bar in wintery Edmonton, a dozen young activists, students, farmers and food policy wonks gathered around tables. An unlikely setting for the sprouting of a movement, perhaps, but that evening at the 2012 Food Secure Canada Assembly led to the creation of a network of Canadian youth engaged in food work. The Food Secure Canada Youth Caucus now holds regular teleconferences that engage young and emerging food leaders working on farming, labour, food justice, policy, health, and student engagement across the country.

The work felt frustratingly slow at first: national engagement and community-building are often gradual and drawn-out processes, and we were determined to create something inclusive and diverse. So, after two years of talking to crackly, faceless voices over conference lines, the youth gathering at FSC’s Halifax Assembly felt like walking out of a black and white photo into technicolour. Overlooking a room of 75 animated and diverse faces and hearing clear, chattering voices was both moving and affirming.

Our goals in organizing this event were twofold. First, to create a safe and accessible space for youth to engage with food issues: a place to welcome youth from all backgrounds and experience into the food movement. Second, to create an intergenerational exchange: food-movement youth and elders sometimes don’t cross paths as often as they should, and we wanted to see what would happen when we made space for a joint discussion.

This event resulted in some of the most engaging and provocative conversations of the Assembly’s sessions. Youth leaders led breakout groups on farming, food policy, food justice, campus food systems and fisheries (namely Jayme Melrose, Jaida Regan, Maggie Edwards, Hugo Martorell, Dilya Niezova, Georgia McNeil, Laura Mather and Justin Cantafio). Each break-out group drew in passionate young people to connect and discuss these issues and identify next steps for action. Our experiences as food-movement actors and eaters from across the country were enriched by being brought into the Nova Scotian context - proximity to the ocean brought fisheries squarely into our discussion, and being on unceded Miqmaq territory shaped our conversation around indigenous perspectives.

This was followed by a panel of food mentors: food policy analyst and writer Wayne Roberts, indigenous food sovereignty activist and researcher Dawn Morrison, FSC Chair and international development professional Eric Chaurette, and Getaway Farms founder Chris de Waal. The panel members spoke about how they became involved in food work and what they wished they had known when they started. A common theme for each of these mentors was that  food acted as a source of inspiration and personal transformation, drawing them into this work. Out of these courageous and intimate presentations came a discussion about the healing character of food and the role of settlers in indigenous food sovereignty and food justice movements. The intergenerational setting allowed for both fresh perspectives and wisdom around difficult questions.

A second, smaller youth meeting took place during the closing session of the Assembly - FSC’s proaction cafe. This time, we were focused on action. After provoking speeches from food-movement leaders and a mobilizing appeal to make food an issue in the 2015 federal election from FSC’s Executive Director Diana Bronson, we found ourselves once again at a table with a dozen forward-looking youth. In half an hour we put together the skeleton of a national youth engagement campaign that, hand-in-hand with a broader Food Secure Canada campaign, will aim to put food on the political map in the coming months. 

It is difficult in a blog post to generate the kind of energy created through conversation and collaboration with peers and mentors. But with a federal election coming up, we have an opportunity to elect a government whose ideals are not diametrically opposed to our own and whose policies we might have the ability to affect. So we’re asking you for your energy, whether you were in Halifax or continuing your hard work elsewhere, to help put food on the agenda in this election.

We’re doing this because young people are disproportionately affected by the piecemeal and destructive food policies that govern our broken food system and create inequities by prioritizing corporate profit over health, justice, land and water; because, as was demonstrated at our gathering in Halifax, youth have remarkable energy and inventive points of view that bring resilience and imagination to our movement; and because campuses and student unions are perfectly poised to galvanize support and add the weight of thousands of diverse voices to this campaign.

Now is the time for action in communities and on campuses, and we want your help. Please join our next teleconference, where, together, we will chart a plan to bring youth and food issues to the attention of our politicians.

by Sasha McNicoll, Brynne Sinclair-Waters, Sarah Archibald and Lauren Kepkiewicz.

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I have already participated in this Youth Caucus National Assembly. Lots of students are gathered there and nice to see their participation on various food related topics. I think this kind of assemblies including young talents really helps to address the present food issues that we are facing and they collect some ideas on solving these food related problems.

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I appreciate the work of the food secure Canada for conducting this type of activities. Campus food projects are the best one because students are interested in farming and other activities and this will be helpful for the common android tablets wholesale