Session #2 - Calgary

Our second day of the 30Lab brought us back to the City Building Design lab in a new space. Here we had more room to let our ideas flourish as the sun shone in the large room and illuminated the session. We began with amazing news that we had 400 respondents to our survey! Some of the most standout findings included time and cost being limiting factors for preparing one’s own food, a lack of accessible farmers markets’, urban farms/gardens, and food banks, low knowledge on how one’s food is grown and the Calgary food system, and a high importance placed on the social aspects of food.

After this summary we had the good fortune of receiving presentations from several actors from the Calgary food scene. This time allowed us to gain perspective on the Calgary food system as it is right now to understand the current stresses and shocks. Avaleen Streeton from the Calgary Food Bank started us off with a presentation that reviewed the provision of short-term food assistance and the complexity of the stresses that food banks are responding to. Next, we had Rod Olsen from Leaf and Lyre Farms who covered chemical farming and the impacts of industrial style agriculture. As tonic, he provided the alternative of regenerative farming yet acknowledged that all areas, including urban ones, have long to go to begin fostering soil health, capturing carbon in the soil, and growing healthy food.

Paul Hughes continued the evening with a presentation based on Grow Calgary. He focused on the amount of land in Calgary that is currently going unused and the difficulties in accessing and utilizing that land. Syma Habib from The Alex Community Food Centre was up next and discussed the social factors that mingle with food. Food is just one element that is affected by poverty and is wound up in a complex web of relationships, which makes building food resilience a broader project of building strong communities and social ties.

Finally, Aman Adatia from FARE Community provided an example of social entrepreneurship that connects food to social justice and systems thinking including skill building, waste handling, and accessibility & affordability. Through our speakers, we gained a broader appreciation of where we are at in Calgary and the current stresses that need to be addressed.

Our mentors stayed with us for another hour and this gave our participants the opportunity to ask additional questions, delve deeper into the mentors’ areas of expertise, and collect details on the Calgary food system. After lunch, we used the knowledge that we had gained from this session to explore audiences that we could gear our projects towards. The groups ranged from Brew Crew to Starbuck Superstars to the Sneaker Squad and we brainstormed the needs of these groups and how & where to reach them.

To close out our day we dreamt big and created a vision of the future of food in Calgary. Our group imagined what could be possible, and what the future might look, feel, and taste like in a more food resilient city. We dreamt of creating green spaces for growing that incorporate native ecology, a locally sourced food system where people understand and act as part of food network beyond being consumers, reducing food waste dramatically, and sharing resources to build community around food.

We finished off this second day energized from the conversations, ideas, and vision of a better food future. During the next week our participants would be able to dream big, to think of the possibilities, and come fresh with ideas that could come to life and create a resilient urban food system.




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