Top 6 takeaways from our second annual Food Summit

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This year’s Food Summit featured three action-packed days of programming including tours, program meetups, workshops, and a keynote address. At the end of the three days, we asked the Summit participants for their top takeaways from the weekend. The participants wrote down their most valuable Summit experiences on coloured pieces of paper that they then folded into paper airplanes and threw into the air. Here are the top 6 takeaways from this year’s event.

The Summit kicked off with two tours – one of the Regent Park CFC and the other of two Toronto-based Good Food Organizations, the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (PARC) and Greenest City.

On the Regent Park tour, participants learned about the community kitchen programs that the CFC offers to engage the culturally diverse neighbourhood. The tour included a visit to the nearby public park, which houses the CFC’s gardens, greenhouse, and bakeoven. Participants heard from the CFC’s Parks Coordinator, Zahrah, about the weekly Taste of Regent Park market that the CFC coordinates in the summer, and which has contributed to building a sense of togetherness in the growing and changing community. Finally, the tour participants visited with Regent Park CFC’s chef, Norberto, who talked about how he prepares community meals five days a week that are low-cost, nutritionally complete, and delicious. 

“The Regent Park chef, Norberto, has a passion for creating beautiful food and he approaches his job with grace and humour. I want to be like him,” said a Food Summit participant.

We introduced a new event at this year's Summit: a keynote that featured four inspiring social change-makers from Canada and the U.S.: Joanna Kerr Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, Jessica Bolduc, Executive Director of the 4Rs Youth Movement, Celeste Licorish, creator and coordinator of Speak Now Hamilton Speakers Bureau, and Beatriz Beckford, Director of the Grassroots Action Network for WhyHunger. More than 200 people turned up to hear stories from their experiences on the frontlines of community mobilization and discuss what the food movement could learn from their experiences. Here are some of the key learnings that the presenters shared with the audience:

Presenting an alternative vision is a critical component of organizing. "As organizers, we can't only be about what we're against. We have to be about what we're for," said Joanna Kerr Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada

"Establishing a foundation for relationships is so critical for cross cultural work but is so often missing," urged Jessica Bolduc, Executive Director of the 4Rs Youth Movement"Engaging in the process of relationship-building is difficult, necessary, and lifelong work." 

“Experiences can be transformational and not just transactional. For the participants of the Speakers Bureau, a lot of what became dignity began as shame,” Celeste Licorish, creator and coordinator of Speak Now Hamilton Speakers Bureau, explained.

Imagine if every community had a place where people could come together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food for all. That's what we asked visitors to our multimedia engagement booth to do over the course of the weekend. Our Community Food Centre model illustrated how locating food access, food skills, and education and engagement opportunities under on roof can lead to cross-pollinization between programs and deeper community engagement. Impact videos helped tell the story of how Community Food Centres are contributing to individual and community change. And our photo booth encouraged delegates to share the ingredients that are necessary for a just and vibrant food system. 


Jessica Bolduc was right, relationships are central to organizing. Changing the food system is hard work. Knowing that there are other organizations and individuals working to achieve similar goals is invaluable. Throughout the Summit's workshops and meetups, representatives from CFCs and GFOs across Canada connected over shared issues and strategies. 

"In addition to all the great connections, the conference helped to affirm that our organization is on the right track in terms of the development of programs that move the needle on food security in our community," one participant reported. "This work can be so daunting and isolating sometimes. Connecting with others in similar positions helps to affirm that we are not alone." 

Over the course of two days, Food Summit participants engaged in a total of 15 workshops ranging in topics from enhancing social media skills to integrating gardens and markets into program planning. The schedule offered a mix of hands-on skills training to case studies that offered best practices for a range of issues. On Sunday afternoon, we hosted a Pecha Kucha-style power session where six presenters shared success stories and key learnings from their programs. One crowd favourite was Cook Camera Action from Loving Spoonful, a program that teaches food and nutrition skills to teens who document their experience through a series of short videos.

“As a newcomer to my organization," a participant reflected, "I came away from the Summit feeling more confident and assured about my direction and the changes that I need to make to improve my program’s impact.”

When providing a case study of their programs, many presenters spoke about the roadblocks and challenges that they have faced. From having limited community partners to volunteer management, the speakers acknowledged their challenges and provided tangible solutions to organizations facing similar situations.

For another participant, this discussion of challenges was the most valuable part of the presentations. “I appreciated how honest they were about their journey. To learn about the roadblocks that they encountered was reassuring. It helped me realize I’m not the only one facing these challenges and there is a solution out there!”

“I loved hearing from people in other CFCs as well as GFOs and knowing that what I do is a small, and important part of the big picture. The big picture is key, and it's also important to understand that change takes time and effective strategies” concluded a Food Summit participant.

Check out more highlights from our action packed Summit on Storify!


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