Community organizing, cooking, and gardening: Or how the youth will save us

 In Building Knowledge, Events, Food Skills & Nutrition, Good Food Stories

On April 14th to April 16th, my co-worker Amanda and I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto for the 4th annual Food Summit, held by Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC). I started my weekend at a conflict management plenary, which was located in the Centre for Social Innovation. There, we were able to work through different scenarios, both imagined and real, with facilitator Shannon Thompson.With the intent to help us better understand people and conflict. On Sunday and Monday, workshops were held at Hart House on the University of Toronto’s campus, and for those who’ve never been, it is a stunning building!  Our day started with a delicious breakfast shared in the Great Room of Hart House, which looks suspiciously like Hogwarts though, despite our best efforts, we were unable to find any hidden passageways.

Community networking and knowledge sharingOwen and Amanda Power Up

After the summit kickoff, and hearing some beautiful stories shared by the 3 presenters, we were off to learn!  The first session I attended was on Indigenous Food Programs, where we heard from 3 outstanding folks in the field, one of whom was my remarkable co-worker, Amanda Froese. After a quick break, we were back to the Great Room to network. It was there that we had the opportunity to meet folks working in related areas. We were encouraged to bounce ideas off of each other, and troubleshoot an assortment of programs and practices, such as; gardens & kitchen programs, fundraising, advocacy, creating inclusivity, and more. After a delightful and filling lunch, both Amanda and I attended a panel discussion on Centring Justice in our Work. It was thought-provoking and energizing, and left both of us with a renewed sense of vigor in the work we do!  After a long, but gratifying, day, we had a short rest, then headed to the wonderful social CFCC held for us at a local bowling alley. We enjoyed some amazing appetizers (turns out, food at a food conference is superb!), played some fun games, and enjoyed meeting and chatting with other folks who share our passions.

For me, the next day was filled with justice! I started off the day of workshops with one that built on the previous days’ plenary, Centring Justice in Ourselves and our Work. Next, I headed to a workshop on Making Space for Mental Health, where we heard from some colleagues who are making great advances in offering supportive and inclusive spaces for the folks in our communities who are struggling with mental health. Rounding out the day, in what was perhaps my favourite workshop of the weekend, a packed room came together to talk about youth engagement, and how we can intertwine mentorship, art, and social justice into our cooking and gardening programs. I came away from that workshop with new connections, new ideas, new friends, and a profound confidence in the youth of today.

Building on connections across communities

In between all of the busyness of conferencing, and networking, and socializing, Amanda and I were lucky enough meet Ray Solotki. Ray is the Executive Director of the Inuvik Community Greenhouse, but more than that, Ray also worked and was close friends with Emily Mann, a Food Matters Manitoba co-worker, and friend. In January, our team heartbreakingly and unexpectedly lost Emily early this year. There were more than a few times Em came to my mind this weekend. She would’ve loved being at the Food Summit. So being able to meet Ray, for the 3 of us to be able to share that connection, well, it made the weekend even more special than we could’ve expected.

Written by: Owen Campbell, Community Food Facilitator