Story by Michelle McChristie
Photos by Shannon Costigan, EcoSuperior

“Food is a necessity of life. Food is connected not only to personal health, but the environment, the economy and a sense of community”.- Recommendations for Developing a District of Thunder Bay Regional Food Strategy (2012)

On September 19, the City of Thunder Bay and partners launched the development of the area’s inaugural food strategy. The project comes after the signing of the Thunder Bay Food Charter in 2008 and a the Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s recommendations for developing a food strategy in 2012. In the Health Unit’s atrium, fresh and delicious local food, catered by Pine Tree Catering and The Growing Season, and optimistic conversation filled the room—the local food sector is growing and an increasing number of people are thinking about the connections from farm to table.

Thanks to a three-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, EcoSuperior has hired Kendal Donahue to coordinate the food strategy. Donahue radiated with enthusiasm as she spoke about the initiative that will involve focus group discussions, surveys and other opportunities for involvement from all levels of the food chain: government, producers, retailers, restaurants, health professionals and consumers. Firedog Communications has been hired to assist with the project and lead an information discussion about what a food strategy means. As attendees shared their thoughts, others nodded their heads in agreement: “greater community control over food and knowledge of what we are eating,” “supporting local producers,” “a high level of caring for one another and the environment,” “expanding the discussion about food to include more people,” “all sectors working together to contribute to local food production and sustainability” and “eating well, eating good, healthy food” were some of the ideas expressed.

Above all, the commitment of local politicians to participate in the development of the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy was seen as being a positive step. Councillors Rebekah Johnson (Thunder Bay) and Bernie Kamphof (Oliver-Paipoonge) spoke about their involvement in and commitment to putting pen to paper to map out the actions required to improve local food sustainability. If local food advocates feel as though they’ve been preaching to the choir, they should feel proud to know that the choir has grown in recent years and is soon to flourish.

Check for opportunities to become involved in the development of the food strategy. As said by an attendee at the launch, “Food is a unifying thing on a lot of different levels…while we might have different ideas about the strategy, everyone agrees on the fundamentals.” After all, we all need affordable, healthy, tasty food.
Group shot 1People during dinner enjoying the “gourmet burger and salad” dinner catered by Nikos Mantis’s Localmotion Food Truck. You can also see the mini expo of local food initiatives in the background.

Raili and VolkerPhoto of Raili Roy (farmer, works for Country Market, and owns Beanstalk Consulting) and Volker Krom (from Regional Food Distribution Association) enjoying the burgers and salad.Stephanie AshStephanie Ash (Chief Executive Officer of Firedog) leading a session to gain input for the Food Strategy’s communications and engagement plan.