REAP's Food For Thought returns for a fourth year of celebration and education
Have you ever wondered where the food you eat comes from?
You can brush up on the facts at Respect for the Earth and All People's (REAP) fourth annual Food For Thought event.
During the event Calgary and Area chefs are paired with the producers whose food they use, to show citizens how available sustainable food is.
Community Natural Foods is one of REAP's sponsors who participates in the event every year and values what Food For Thought does for their industry.
"It's a really cool approach to food. You are not only showcasing the producer who grows the food, but the locally owned businesses that source and serve local food to their customers," says Chandra Morice, Community Natural Foods marketing manager. "It's a perfect example of how a local food system can work and work well."
On Sept. 22 at the Chinese Cultural Centre, food fans can meet the people who grow the locally sourced food Calgarians are eating in the restaurants around the city.
This year, REAP's Food For Thought will feature 22 sustainable food and beverage sampling stations, opportunities to meet local food producers and educational displays about sustainable food.
REAP is a non-profit association for locally owned and sustainably operated businesses that has approximately 100 members.
Not only is REAP a force to be reckoned with in terms of its steadily growing size, but get this – they actually promote a great cause; working to create a more vibrant and localized economy.
What is sustainable food?
"Food sustainability means different things to different people," says Tony Marshall, a co-owner of Highwood Crossing, a certified organic farm near High River.
"When you think of sustainability, organic production is usually at the forefront of that."
Organic food is grown in a way that is less harmful to the environment and to the people consuming it as it uses no pesticides or other toxic chemicals in its production.
The health benefits of eating organic are a huge draw to the event every year. As Chandra Morice describes it: "We all have a good relationship with our doctors to ensure our health. Why not know where our food is coming from?"
However, organic food and the good health associated with it is not the only deciding factor of food sustainability.
"Sustainable food is also food production that creates livelihoods for people in our local communities," says Stephanie Jackman, founder and CEO of REAP. "One could make the argument that local food is more sustainable then organic, so it depends on whether you are coming at it from a health standpoint or an economic standpoint."
Economic or health conscious, sustainable food (organic in particular) is often perceived as a privileged and pricey investment; another factor REAP is fighting against.
"When you think about food as a basic human need and as a way to build stronger and more resilient communities, sustainable food production really should be available to anybody and everybody," Jackman says.
However, price differential is not all that Food For Thought attendees can take away from this event.
"I think it's really important for consumers to understand where their food comes from and have a relationship with their growers or producers so that they know how their food is grown," Morice says. "It's the whole fork-to-field mentality."
The idea of a fork-to-field mentality keeps producers coming back to this event every year Marshall says. "Generations ago people had a very direct connection to the land through family. In this day and age people are removed from that. So it's important for people to make those connections and realize there is a face to that food."
Though Organic farms are certainly still in the minority as compared to conventional farming, Marshall says that it is an economic factor worth keeping an eye on.
"Organic farm[ing] in Alberta is certainly a growing interest as the demand for organic food is growing every year. Its beyond a trend or a fad, it is definitely become mainstream," Marshall says.
For more information on REAPs annual Food For Thought event, visit www.reapcalgary.com/foodforthought
- By STEPHANIE WATT