A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND APPROACH TO LOCAL FOOD AND FOOD JUSTICE IN MANITOBA: Welcome and well come!
YES, we did it!!!
It took us 18 months, 23 meetings, and about 2000 coffees to give birth to our localANDjust funding proposal that we just submitted to SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council of the federal government). We have about a 30% chance of success; about the same chance that there is is a killing frost after May 24 in Manitoba (when most gardeners begin their planting). Yet we are all excited and very optimistic. If these funds do come thru, MAFRA gets 1 million dollars over five years, plus whatever else we can “leverage”. Stay posted – we find out one way or the other, February 2010
But what is MAFRA anyway, and why should you or anyone else care?
MAFRA stands for the Manitoba Alternative Food Research Alliance (a kind of cheeky-geeky-insider word play on our provincial government’s agriculture organization – MAFRI or Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives). We are an alliance of community groups, nongovernmental organizations, community leaders, researchers, educators, health workers, and caring individuals who:
- care about a rich diversity of foods and food traditions;
- recognize that most of us have very limited choices about the food we eat, especially those folks that are poor;
- think that these choices can be provided by local foods and elsewhere-foods that are fairly traded; and
- want to make a difference – in our lives and of others, and those of future generations.
MAFRA is currently made up of 51 organizations from across northern, rural, and urban Manitoba and elsewhere in Canada (check out the tab “partners” to find out who we are www.localANDjust.ca) – and is continuing to grow as you read. We are about promoting regional alternatives to the so called global food system. Not rejecting the global system, but developing real food choices that are affordable, local, and that meet the needs of everyone – eaters and food providers alike.
You have probably heard of initiatives like 100-mile diet (check out http://100milemanitoba.org for the Manitoba chapter) or Slow Food (check out http://slowfoodmanitoba.blogspot.com for Slow Food Manitoba) or the Manitoba government’s “buy fresh, buy local campaign (http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/financial/youngfarmers/whatsforsupperfall07.html).
Yes these are important. But they don’t go far enough. What they do achieve pretty much caters to the whims of city folk that have deep pockets and +$60,000 annual incomes. Unless you make a huge whack of cash, or know a farmer or fisher that can fill your plate for cheap, or for that matter unless you grow your own food, you are pretty much out of luck.
And if you live in the city and go to the big-box Safeways or Costco, yes food is pretty cheap, but so cheap, chances are that it costs more to produce than what you are paying. And it will be grown pretty much everywhere around the world except in Manitoba. On the other hand, if you live in a rural community, chances are some of and perhaps even all your neighbours have sold off their farms and that you also buy most of your food at a Costco or Safeways. And if you happen to live in a fly-in community up North, chances are that this cheap food is anything but cheap (carrots and milk are 3-4X what you would pay for them in Winnipeg, if you can get them at all).
People concerned about the politics that surround food talk about food justice – and instead want to promote locally and internationally grown foods that fairly reward both eaters and the food providers alike (food providers are farmers, but also include ranchers, hunters, fishers, pickers, workers, gardeners, dumpster divers, etc., etc.).
Despite an exploding interest in local foods, Manitoba has very, very little ability to provide its own food, other than the wheat, canola, beef, or other raw products that are being exported around the world and processed elsewhere.
Bottom line. We at MAFRA will promote local food systems and just food systems across the province, and will do this in ways that are useful, rewarding, and (yes) fun. And it will do this in ways that are accessible to everyone regardless of where you live, what you do to make ends meet, and what language you speak. And in so doing, we will politicise our love for local.
Manitoba can be broken down into urban, rural, and northern regions. If you have explored our province, you will know that each region has its own priorities and its own unique traditions around food. MAFRA will promote unique solutions to these unique needs and will do so by including everyone who cares enough to care.
- giving start-up funding for urban, rural, and northern community projects, ones that the MAFRA membership (all of us) decides are the most important;
- providing research and education support for these and other community initiatives and groups around local and just food systems; and
- bringing people together regularly to share and to celebrate food related ideas, experience, knowledge, and resources.
It is our belief that food systems – in Manitoba and elsewhere – begin and end with people and the environment. Enough said.
So again what is MAFRA?
It is you, your community, your food.
Your traditions and your hopes for now and the future.
Regardless of your roots or your knowledge, please come and join us. You can do so either in person at one of our events (our first celebration is on World Food Day Oct 16 in the inner city http://www.localandjust.ca/?p=184). Or email us – on the MAFRA website (http://www.localandjust.ca/?page_id=73). Or write us a letter (Environmental Conservation Lab, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB R3T-2N2) or phone us (204-474-9316).
Tea and snacks are on the stove.
Welcome and well come!