Great Meals for a Change

Today’s post comes from Sara.  Sara grew up in Dartmouth, NS and has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Biology. She is currently working in a genetics lab at Fisheries and Ocean Canada as a Lab Technician. She is a relatively recent member of the Food Action Committee and is excited to contribute to the work of a committee that fits so well with some of her own interests, namely local food, cooking, and food security.

Image from Great Meals for a Change

Image from Great Meals for a Change

I was fortunate to join the Food Action Committee (FAC) just in time to hear about an upcoming event called Great Meals for a Change, which is essentially a dinner party featuring local ingredients and fosters conversations about where and how the food we eat is produced.

Although they pretty much had me sold at the mention of a free dinner party, Great Meals for a Change is directed at people who value sustainable food, but could be doing more to support those beliefs and therefore I was an ideal participant. I have changed many of my food habits to better reflect my support for local food, but admit to sometimes choosing the 24 hour grocery store two blocks away from my apartment over the farmer’s market on the opposite side of the peninsula and often eat fruits that are not native to or in season in our province. Nearly everyone, even those with the best intentions, could be doing more with their purchasing power to support organic, fair trade, and/or local products that make our food system more sustainable.

Great Meals for a Change was initiated by the Just Us! Development and Education Society and Acadia University professors Dr. Alan Warner and Dr. Edith Callaghan based on research showing that social experiences can motivate individuals to change their food purchasing behaviour. Members of FAC were invited to take part in a Great Meals dinner for their own enjoyment and education as well as to generate leaders and ideas to help spread Great Meals for a Change in the HRM.

The FAC Great Meal consisted of three tables of 5-6 people, each effectively functioning as a separate dinner complete with a host that had previously attended a Great Meal. While snacking on crackers topped with Fox Hill goat cheese and Tangled Garden herb jelly, participants chatted and got to know each other while constructing a puzzle that displayed principles of sustainable eating, namely ecologically responsible, fair and accessible, local, healthy, and no waste. We then discussed how various practices fit within the principles.

While eating the main course of cornbread, chili, and salad, cards containing questions sparked a variety of discussion topics, including the percentage of an average Nova Scotian’s grocery bill that goes toward local food, favourite vegetarian recipes, and how what we were fed as children influences our food choices as adults. Fellow participant Sylvia Mangalam was asked to share what she had for lunch and allow other participants to comment on how to make that meal more sustainable. Perhaps not surprisingly for a founding member of FAC, no one at the table could think of how to make Sylvia’s meal more sustainable – at least she gave the rest of us something to strive for!

Over dessert of fruit crisp, we transitioned from free-flowing conversations into the last structured activity of the evening, discussing an action each participant could take to better support sustainable food. Ideas ranged from avoiding bottled water to joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); I chose to attempt to grow vegetables in my own backyard this coming spring. Each participant wrote their goal on a postcard which will be mailed to them by the organizers in a few months as a reminder of which action they committed to taking. Participants were also given a copy of the ingredients and cost of each course, helping to prove to them that a delicious locally-sourced meal can be accessible and affordable.

Great Meals for a Change combined the usual fun of a dinner party with contemplation of actions individuals take to support their social and environmental values related to food. The evening progressed naturally from broad concepts of sustainable food to concrete actions that better align food-related values with spending practices. With FAC looking to host some Great Meals in the new year, I look forward to participating again and passing on such a positive food-related experience.

For more information about Great Meals for  a Change, visit: http://www.greatmealsforachange.ca/

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