Homegrown group aims to give local food a boost

A small group of individuals interested and invested in local food met Monday night in Lacombe to kick off a project looking to improve the food system in Central Alberta.

Lacombe County reeve Ken Wigmore

Lacombe County reeve Ken Wigmore

A small group of individuals interested and invested in local food met Monday night in Lacombe to kick off a project looking to improve the food system in Central Alberta.

Sustainable Equitable Local Regional System — known as S.E.L.R.S. — was set up by Growing Food Security in Alberta and the Dieticians of Canada to explore ways to take back some control of how food is produced, transported and distributed locally.

“It doesn’t mean that 100 per cent of our food must come local and we’re going to become food police,” said Brenda Schroeder, a community facilitator based in Stettler. “It’s really about building relationships and creating connections and understanding what’s already happening. And then going, ‘How do we strengthen that? How do we work together to make this even better?’”

Homegrown initiatives may be the best solution as the current global system is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to soaring oil prices and food shortages, she said.

Phase 1 of the project will gather like-minded individuals to discuss production, environmental impacts, job creation to boost the economy, security, culture, building relationships across all sectors and equity to ensure everyone has access healthy food.

A detailed directory of who is involved in the local food system will also be created, Schroeder said.

She would like to see educational workshops and field trips spanning from production to processing and distribution to foster a better understanding of how food makes it way from farm to dinner table.

About 30 people attended the first S.E.L.R.S. information night, held at the Lacombe Memorial Centre Monday. The farmers, distributors, food bank volunteers, politicians and Alberta Health Services employees divided into smaller groups to define a sustainable, equitable, local and regional food system, and discuss strengthening operations.

Schroeder said some of the people will be asked to join a steering committee to carry the project through the remainder of Phase 1, expected to last until March 2012.

Phase 2 will require federal government funding and will look at starting some improvement projects to start moving towards a local food system.

For more information, visit www.foodsecurityalberta.ca.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com