Albertans meet to discuss food security

People from across Alberta gathered in Edmonton on Saturday to talk about the food they eat — and where it comes from.

People from across Alberta gathered in Edmonton Saturday to talk about the food they eat — and where it comes from.

The conference, called Food: Today, Tomorrow, Together, centred on locally grown food, the global food system and agriculture.

Farmers, consumers, policy-makers and retailers all gathered at Barnett House in Edmonton to participate in the conference, hosted by a coalition of non-profit, governmental and private-sector organizations from across the province.

Speakers included CBC's Carol Off, Elbert VanDonkersgoed of the Greater Toronto Authority Agricultural Action Plan and Herb Barbolet, an associate of the centre for sustainable community development at Simon Fraser University in B.C. and the founder of the non-profit society FarmFolk/CityFolk.

Barbolet said anyone who eats should care about where their food is coming from.

"It's not all about local, but certainly that's been the measure that's been missing. We need more local in the equation," Barbolet said.

"We've been so oriented in export and import that we've really ignored the basis of what our economy is, what the basis of our health and well-being is, what the basis of environment sustainability is, and that's local."

Barbolet said with threats like climate change and mad cow disease, it's important for people to know about the food they eat.

Consumer Michael Hunter shared Barbolet's concerns.

"We do have to import a lot of our food from far away and… in the future, these things likely are going to have to change with [the] colliding forces of climate change or peak oil — pick your potential disaster," Hunter said.

"Right now, the problem is people don't feel an impact from it and it leaves us with a false sense of security that, if I want to get some food, all I have to do is go to the grocery store. For now, that's the reality, and I don't think people think about how that might change."

Hunter said he's buying more food from farmers markets because, at any time, the current system of importing food could falter.