Pandemic Podcast

Community Food Security in a Pandemic

Stay calm and grow food. 

Our goal with this podcast was to leave you, the listener, more informed, inspired and empowered to take action. That includes growing food, raising your voice to strengthen our local food economy, contributing to community food security and contributing to food sovereignty for the good of the whole.

Each episode features three segments: Awareness, Inspiration and Empowerment.

1. Awareness: Community food security news from the global to the local
2. Inspiration: Heart-warming, true and current stories of community compassion and resiliency around food security
3. Empowerment: Interviews with a local ‘food heroes’ and sharing actions that you can take to improve food security in our community

Special thanks to the podcast production team: Jean Sarrazin, Rob Crowston and Alivia Veenstra.

Episode Ten: The true cost of cheap food on our well-being [Part One]

This episode starts to ask the questions:

What is the true cost of cheap food to our bodies and minds, to ecosystems, and to our climate?

What is the larger price that we pay as a global society for the continued rise of industrial agriculture that focuses on commodity grains, exploits farmers and labourers, and relies on corporations to process food?

This episode explores these questions through a conversation with community dietitian Janelle Hatch as she provides us with her wisdom and the trends she is seeing in the field. 

Janelle has been working as a dietitian in the community for more than ten years, bringing attention and focus to the area of food security, food systems, and healthy eating. She has worked as a dietician in public health, and now works specifically with the Healthy Schools program for Island Health. She brings passion for food literacy and healthy eating and this enthusiasm is reflected in her home and volunteer work also. She is a busy mother of two children and as a family they work together to grow a vegetable garden and fruit growing trees to maximize their urban garden area and the pleasure derived from eating whole, fresh food.

Don’t worry, as always we will also share what is working in communities as a more healthful response to ‘cheap food’.


Episode Nine: Interview with Andrea Gunner – Agricultural Economist, Agrologist and Farmer in the North Okanagan

As a continuation of the topic presented in Episode 8: Local Food as an Economic Driver in the Lens of Recovery, this episode is an interview with Andrea Gunner. I met Andrea in February when we were both panellists for the North Okanagan Land to Table Network in-person conference. The theme for the conference was: building shared understanding of food access.

Andrea is a professional Agrologist of AG Consulting, has been involved in many projects connecting agricultural producers with consumers in sustainable and economically viable systems. As an agricultural economist with a horticultural background, she has worked in farm business management at both primary and value-added processing levels. Together with her husband, Steve, they run a pastured poultry operation raising roasting chickens and turkeys on a small acreage in the North Okanagan, mentoring satellite farms and directly supplying over 600 households and select restaurants in the Thompson Okanagan. 

Episode Eight: Local Food as an Economic Driver in the Lens of Recovery

This episode discusses how local food can act as an economic driver for our local economy at a time when all levels of government are now focused on ‘economic recovery.’ It highlights an interview with Kirsten Wood, Founder and Operator of Blue Spruce Ice Cream, which uses locally produced ingredients to create even more value out of local products.

Links to news mentioned on the show:

1. Surplus Food Rescue Program
2. Labour shortages on cherry farms in the the Okanagan
3. Issues with migrant workers come to light through COVID-19 and need to be addressed: Migrant workers claim cramped quarters a problem at COVID-19 stricken Okanagan farm
4. There is hope! Many farmers here in the Comox Valley seem to be having their best season: Despite Covid- CV Famers upbeat about 2020 season

Episode SEVEN: Food systems inequality and indigenous food soverignty 

In terms of systemic racism and inequality, global food systems are at the top of the list. There must be a better way forward. What gives me hope is watching the agency, action and resiliency of communities that have been dealing with systemic racism and colonization for 100s of years. In this week’s episode we are joined by WSANIC Elder and knowledge keeper Earl Claxton Jr. With generosity and spirit, Earl has been working on Indigenous food sovereignty issues for over 30 years in his community.

Resources and organizations to check out:

Seed Change is a seed and food security organization, formerly USC Canada, who works with farmers around the world to strengthen their ability to grow good food, starting with local seeds.

La Via Campesina is an international movement bringing together millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. Built on a strong sense of unity and solidarity between these groups, it defends peasant agriculture for food sovereignty as a way to promote social justice and dignity and strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture that destroys social relations and nature.

UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems webinar series: Building Resilient Food Systems During Covid-19 and Beyond. I was able to join in for last Thursday’s discussion on Decolonizing the Land and Food Systems: Indigenous Resilience in Times of Crisis.

Cultural Safety and experiential reconciliation workshops such as: Building Bridges Through Understanding and Blanket Exercise, as well as Diversity and Inclusion workshops for organizations. 


Episode Six: The New Un-normal

As we continue on this pandemic journey towards our ‘restart’ BC, this is not a ‘new normal’, this is an ‘un-normal’.  The amount of uncertainty that still persists for those in the food and agriculture sector will continue to require flexibility, and innovation, to deal with continued change.

One of the hardest hit industries over this time has been the restaurant industry, and through restaurants are currently in the process of reopening the lost revenues over the last couple of months, combined with the investment needed to reopen and the limited physical capacity of operation needed to be in compliance with BC’s safety rules means some will really struggle and some will not reopen at all.  In today’s interview we will hear more about the journey of restaurants more broadly over the last couple of months, and more specifically that of Atlas Cafe.

Some handy resources:

A recently released survey conducted by the Victoria Foundation and Vancouver Foundation of over 1,000 non profits in British Columbia finds that 92% are seeing an increase in stress, half fear they will not be able to operate over six more months, and over half are also seeing an increased demand in their services.

Restaurant owners across the province have been given the green light to begin again inviting guests to enjoy meals while sitting inside their brick-and-mortar establishments. BC’s new restaurant safety rules laid out include distancing, strategic staff scheduling, and contact collecting.

On May 26, 2020, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced an investment of up to $9.2 million to enhance the YESP and fund up to 700 new positions for youth, aged 15 to 30, in the agriculture industry.


Episode Five: Squashing Hunger with Lake Trail Community Education Society

This week’s short episode will focus on an Interview with Lake Trail Community Education Society Garden Coordinator Elaine Codling.

Lake Trail Community Education Society has been around since 2010, with the  Mission of promoting an integrated focus on lifelong learning, healthy lifestyles, community development and engagement leading to improved learning, stronger families and a healthier community.

Lake Trail Community Middle School strives to be a neighbourhood centre accessible to everyone.


Episode Four: Community Food Security– The Long Game

Interview with ED and Vancouver Island Health Authority Food Hub lead, Jen Cody of Nanaimo Food Share.

Community Food Security- The long game is the focus of this show.  True community food security is not about quick fixes or band-aid solutions, but systems changes towards resilient thriving local food systems.   That means investments in infrastructure, policy and equipping a new generation of food growers and processors. Hopefully the need for this long-term thinking will be clarified by recent events- but this is certainly not a given.

My biggest take away came from Stuart Oke from the National Farmers Union (link is external) and Rooted Oak Farm (link is external) talked about the existing challenges in farming, and how long farmers have been continually devalued, with the last 30 years showing significant devaluing- he was speaking from a financial devaluing but also social devaluing or invisibility of farmers and growers.  Here is a quote from him: 

“There’s certainly a real short term need to help protect farmers and our food system now and that’s really important to get right, otherwise we won’t have a medium and long term transformation to talk about. Providing that we can get that short term economic need taken care of, the medium term is certainly investing in that infrastructure which will allow local food systems to thrive and prosper.” – Stuart Oke, National Farmers Union

Check out the resources below!

1. Nanaimo Food Share in the news:

2. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020 Food Secure Canada hosted a webinar “From short-term response to food system transformation.” 

Some other great resources through Food Secure Canada:  is a database of articles about what communities across Canada have enabled regarding food security

3. The Prime Minister announcement: $252 million to address food supply issues. 

Canadian Federation of Agriculture has stated the industry had suggested 2.6 billion was needed to maintain food security and food supply and warn of food supply disruptions “$252 million like a bucket of water on a burning house.”

4. Comox Valley Farmer’s survey. This survey is a follow up from a conversation held on April 22, 2020 with Comox Valley farmers and food growers called, “Thriving Comox Valley Food Supply,” hosted by LUSH Valley and the CV Food Policy Council.

The survey asks specific questions about what support you could use on your farm this season in order to grow more food or maintain your normal production. We used the feedback from the meeting and our own insights on support resources to ask questions that would lead to a plan.

The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. Complete the survey here. Thank you!

Episode Three: Stay Calm and Grow Food

The idea of local food flowing into social programs is not new, especially for those of us working in Community Food Security, however our current situation is providing additional arguments for ‘closing the loop’.  This episode focuses on projects near and far that embrace this idea, with interviews with Honey Grove Bakery, Hillcrest Farm and Forest, LUSH Emergency Food Chef, and LUSH Warehouse Manager.

Want to learn more? Check out the links below:

Food Security, Poverty, Housing and the Local Food System; Closing the loop in the Comox Valley

The Globe and Mail: Food Coalition aims to feed the disadvantaged while saving restaurants and the food-supply chain

The Golden Trifecta: Local artisan bakery teams up with Comox Valley grain farmer and miller to promote food security on Vancouver Island

Restaurants Coconut Lagoon and Thali, and community organization Food for Thought: Net Café, have joined forces with a group of A-list Ottawa chefs, friends, and volunteers to launch Food for Thought: COVID-19 Relief, cooking and delivering free hot meals daily to families across Ottawa who live in shelters without cooking facilities. 

Episode Two: Grow Food Everywhere!

This week’s episode is packed with inspiring interviews from local food growers and advocates from Victoria and the Comox Valley.

Episode One: An Introduction

Interested in learning more about topics and events talked about in the podcast? We’ve got you covered. 

1.You are invited! Join for this FREE webinar on Wednesday, April 22 from 11:00 AM-12:00 PM with Can You Dig It Provincial Manager, Aaren Topley, and the City of Victoria Food System Coordinator, Alex Harned.  Register today and share with your municipal staff contacts and Councillors!

To learn more about the process and implementation of this initiative check out this Chek News article.

2. Calling all farmers! Please join us Wednesday, April 22 from 7:30-9:00 PM for a discussion and action planning re: Comox Valley Thriving Local Food Supply. How can we work together for a thriving local food supply this season?  Please join us for a CV farmer/producer discussion led by LUSH Valley and the Food Policy Council.  We want to understand your strengths and needs at this time and find ways to work together to support and advocate for shared interests (guaranteed markets, labour support…etc.).

Please email Jenn Meilleur if you plan on attending.

3. Check out the amazing video: Victory Gardens. This video is all about growing food here in the Comox Valley (it will make you laugh, too). Created by Dan Peruzzo, Producer, Shaw Spotlight, this video features many of our local food heroes!

Special thanks to the podcast production team: Jean Sarrazin, Rob Crowston and Alivia Veenstra!

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