"Something happens to people who plant seeds- it is impossible to watch a plant grow and flourish without getting a sense of the miracle of all life." -Herb Barbolet
Herb Barbolet is the Wayne Gretzky of healthy local food. Decades before the 100 mile diet, Slow Food, and the food security movement he understood the vulnerability of relying on food which in turn relies on fossil fuel to fertilize, cultivate and transport.
He, like Gretzky, skated to where the puck would be – local food farming. For over three decades he and his colleagues have been engaged in public education; advocacy; research; building alliances; demonstration; hospitality and celebration. He co-founded Farm Folk-City Folk to link local food makers with local buyers and to cultivate a local sustainable food system.
Recently Herb co-authored, Every Bite Counts: Climate Justice and BC's Food System for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It chronicles how climate change and the increasing costs of fossil fuel contribute to higher commodity prices which raise the price of food and add to the hunger toll.
The report offers concrete recommendations – not surprising with Herb's pedigree as an organic farmer, policy analyst, social entrepreneur, media commentator and researcher. And I would add anti-poverty activist as reflected in this quote from Every Bite Counts:
"Because adequate access to healthy food is deeply linked to its cost, any price increases in food will result in greater food insecurity and/or increased malnutrition for vulnerable populations, both in Canada and abroad. Addressing income security is therefore a key component of meaningfully addressing food security in Canada and BC. The concept of a living wage is one important piece, as individuals and families need to be able to earn enough income from work to afford decent, healthy food. "
Globally 75 million are starving as a direct result of high food prices (source BBC). In March 2008, wheat prices were up 130%, soy 87%, rice 74%, and corn 31%, compared to a year earlier. In 2010, a drought in Russia prompted the country to impose an export ban on wheat, and has led to a major increase in global wheat prices in the face of reduced output. Any guesses about which direction prices will go, given recent conflicts in the oil producing Arab world and the trio of tragedies in Japan?
Already more Canadians are using food banks than ever before – the majority being families with children. (Source Food Banks Canada)
British Columbia like most Canadian provinces imports about half of its food, leaving the province vulnerable to supply disruptions and price shocks.
Every Bite Counts recommends a food planning framework to enhance our resilience and self sufficiency. For example, if BC could shift just 1.5% of its opverall consumption to local sources every year, the province would supply 80% of its food needs by 2030. They encourage large public and non-profit institutions such as schools, hospitals, universities, prisons, and social housing complexes to purchase food from local suppliers. This would boost the development of a local food system. (See page 10 of Every Bite Counts for a summary of their eleven recommendations.)
Herb, who is now an Associate with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University, is an inspiration for sticking to it even when you are a voice in the wilderness. Unlike Gretzky, his talent is not uni-dimensional. He understands the complex inter-related variables that nurture life, “At a deeper level, this is more about an ongoing cultural transformation in how we think about food, waste, the economy, labour, health and education.”
Where Does Our Food Come From – everything you always wanted to know about where your food comes in 3 short minutes Vimeo produced by Herb