Last month, the Gateway checked back in with Krystle tenBrink with Squamish CAN (Climate Action Network) and shared their story of how participating in the Community of Practice (CoP) helped further food security work with their local government. After meeting online for a few months, CoP participants enthusiastically came together for an in person retreat prior to the BC Food Systems Network annual gathering at UBC last year. That was where Tanya Malcolm from Community Connections of Southeast BC Cranbrook (CCSC) met Krystle.
I’m relatively new to food security and food policy work and so when my boss asked me what was my ‘Aha!’ moment coming back from the gathering, it was climate action. The way Squamish CAN approaches their food work through a climate perspective clicked for me.
Through a series of follow up connections, Cranbrook Community Connection obtained seed funding through the Columbia Basin Trust climate fund to investigate the possibility of a food recovery coalition in Cranbrook. Tanya and her team were able to learn from a similar project in Revelstoke, again, thanks to a connection with Melissa Hemphill within the CoP.
This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the Community of Practice. I didn’t know the right people or have access to the right resources beforehand to bring a project like this to fruition.
What is remarkable about Cranbrook as a small city of 20,000 residents, is the breadth of work happening all across the food system. The food rescue pilot is in early stages and is just the most recent initiative, many of which are housed under Community Connections. The overall organization is a service hub facilitating programs for people from infancy to their senior years all in one place.
Food figures strongly across the organization and program areas which value the importance of drawing participants in with a good meal. Sophie Larsen has coordinated food security work within CCSC for the last four years and since her return from maternity leave and will now move the food rescue pilot ahead. She reflects on a key question: how do we go beyond just providing the meal or the food basket?
On the programming level, one answer that’s emerged is a collective kitchen bringing people together to cook, eat together, and take food home using what was available through the Cranbrook Food Bank. Sophie and her team also launched Farm Kitchen, a fully approved commercial kitchen space and cold storage, open to anyone to rent. It’s aimed at food entrepreneurs who are ready to scale up production of value added products. It’s also evolving as a community learning space, hosting workshops recently on sourdough bread making and Thai cooking.
Beyond the community programming and charitable food work, Community Connections hosts Cranbrook’s long standing local food network, the Cranbrook Food Action Committee as well as the Grow It Eat It Task Force which includes members of city council. “Working with ‘Grow It Eat It’ has been very valuable in knowing the right language and process for how to mobilize change at the municipal government,” Sophie explains. An explicit direction in building out municipal food policy is yet to come in the City of Cranbrook but even so, the level of infrastructure and project development is flourishing.
What Sophie identifies as a next need for Cranbrook is a paid food security person at the city government level who can link all this work together. Communities across BC will resonate with this suggestion.
Everyone in Cranbrook and really all over BC is working on their different piece and reinventing when they don’t need to. This is already the case in our community so we want to think more broadly about coordinating and sharing provincially. We don’t need to recreate how the project works but rather replicate and adapt.