Most of us equate food security with supporting community gardens and urban farms. But there is a vast cornucopia of nourishing free food already growing abundantly in our parks, neighborhoods and backyards—right now. Food that could be meaningfully and significantly supplementing the dietary needs of community residents and families—vitally enhancing food security.
That’s why we want to encourage Victoria’s mayor and city council to consider adding a new initiative, Eating Wild: Community Supported Foraging to Section 8 of the draft Strategic Plan to “Enhance and Steward Public Spaces, Green Spaces and Food Systems”.
The Eating: Wild Community Supported Initiative (EWSCI) is composed of a coalition of wild food educators, wild food artisans, and chefs, ethnobotanists, ecologists and environmentalists, food security organizations and wild food enthusiasts. The EWSCI has two prongs, a) developing resources for wild food community education and b) forming partnerships between foragers, community groups promoting food security and local government, parks and urban farms.
Our mission is to give wild foods a place at our tables and a place of their own in our emerging local food systems, the “agri-hood” of community gardens, urban farms, boulevard gardens and food forests, that enable community residents and families in their local environments to feed and nourish themselves.
The Eating Wild CSF Initiative seeks to:
- Support wild food education through community educational events and community kitchens in tandem with local community centers and city parks, to teach residents not only how to safely identify, sustainably harvest wild and invasive plants and foods, but to how to prepare, preserve and cook them as well.
- To lobby municipalities and local government requesting that local parks and public green spaces set up “community foraging spaces”. We propose test pilot projects to be chosen in consultation with city environmental technicians to minimally impact endangered plants and bio-systems such as Garry Oak ecosystems.
- Form partnerships with local urban farms and community gardens, i.e. organize regular supervised events in which foragers could help farmers cut costs by weeding their fields.
- Form partnerships with local First Nations to promote the restoration of indigenous food knowledge and systems, as well as the revitalization of traditional foods and medicines.
- Form partnerships with community organizations and local government working towards the eradication of invasive weeds and plants. Many of these plants are highly nutritious foods and we believe the EWCSF Initiative could be of assistance in controlling invasive species.
The Eating Wild CSF Agenda: Community Education & Access
Currently we developing a draft plan for the CSF Initiative.We are seeking support to help subsidize the Eating Wild: Community Supported Initiative and make wild foods and wild food education accessible to all Greater Victoria residents. We envision pilot projects in the areas of community education, strengthening food security, gaining access to public green spaces and city parks, forming partnerships with local food producers and First Nations engaging in indigenous food revitalization and restoration.
Urban Wild Food Walks
Wild foods may grace the menu’s of the world’s top restaurants but few can afford the price of $200.00 dollar dinners. The Eating Wild CSF Initiative wants to return the power of wild foods to the people by reviving traditional and indigenous wild food cuisine; simple home cooking in delicious dishes easily prepared at home.
Currently, Gather Victoria in partnership with the Vic West Food Security Collective, is hosting Urban Wild Food Walks in Banfield Park. One part plant identification, one part wild food buffet, these walks are generously hosted by Victoria West Community Centre. Walks begin with a plant identification foray in which community residents are taught how to safely identify the plants growing profusely in Vic West neighbourhoods and backyards. We teach and emphasise sustainable methods of harvest, keeping in mind the health and well-being of indigenous eco-systems. And we encourage the harvest of plentiful invasive species!
Participants then partake in a wild food tasting menu demonstrating the many ways seasonal wild edibles can be prepared and eaten. Our last walk served up wild greens spring salad, wild green greek pies, dandelion and garlic mustard pestos, nettle chips and cupcakes, grand fir custard, plum blossom truffles and other spring delicacies. And thanks to generous sponsorship of the Vic West Community Centre who donated a room and the kitchen, ticket prices were kept affordable -$20.00.
The Eating Wild: Community Supported Foraging Initiative wants to bring these walks to each neighbourhood in the Greater Victoria area. We envision a partnership with community centres and local parks, in wild food education is made accessible to all residents through affordable pricing. This could be made possible, as in Gather’s partnership with The Vic West Food Security Collective and Victoria West Community centre, where a room and kitchen is donated for use of an afternoon.The time and costs involved in organizing and preparing these walks, sustainably harvesting and preparing the food, paying wild food teachers, promotion costs, renting space etc. are costly. That is why we are seeking funding, resources and support, to make wild food education affordable and accessible to all community residents – no matter their income.
Enhancing Local Food Security
Eating Wild Community Kitchens
The Eating Wild: Community Supported Foraging Initiative, in partnership with licensed community kitchens, would host series of Eating Wild Community Kitchens. These begin with a harvesting foray in local neighbourhoods before returning to the kitchen to learn how to prepare, preserve and cook with wild edibles. Participants will forage and cook communally, and take home an array of wild foods to either stock their larders or be eaten with meals throughout the week. We are seeking funding, resources, sponsorship and support to bring these community kitchens to Victoria residents, especially vulnerable populations, low-income groups and food insecure households. Eating Wild Community Kitchens increase access to affordable nutritious food and will act as complement to existing food security initiatives such as food banks, food buying clubs, and food boxes.
Creating Foraging Zones
Currently foraging is not permitted in city parks. The Eating Wild CSF Initiative lobbies municipalities and local government requesting that local parks and public green spaces set up “community foraging spaces” where citizens can harvest wild foods. These foraging zones would be developed with ecological consultation with parks and chosen with an eye to minimally impacting other flora and fauna, especially endangered species and bio-systems. We are seeking support from the city to create a future in which residents in each community can walk to a local park in their neighborhood and harvest nutritionally rich wild foods to supplement their diets.
Partnership with Urban Food Producers
Local organic farmers currently spend sizeable amounts of time and resources keeping field free from invasive weeds. Many community gardens host volunteer weed pulls. The Eating Wild: Community Supported Foraging Initiative would assist local food producers to control invasive weeds by organizing and hosting foraging expeditions. We believe this is a win-win scenario in which local farmers and community farms can benefit from free labour and foragers can gain access to free food.
Partnerships with First Nations
Our goal is work with and learn from local First Nations to restore indigenous food knowledge and systems, and revitalize knowledge of traditional foods and medicines.
Partnerships with Community Organizations Engaged in Invasive Plant Control
We encourage foragers to form partnerships with parks, community groups, and local governments to keep invasive plants under control by harvesting them and eating them -like this garlic mustard “Pest to Pesto Festival” – and many others popping up across North America.
So please join us! If you are interested in participating in the EWCFI please contact us and let us know. We also ask that you consider emailing a link of this post to City Councillors urging the City support the Eating Wild: Community Supported Foraging Initiative (firstname.lastname@example.org.) Or email a link of this post to Ben Isitt email@example.com and Jeremy Loveday firstname.lastname@example.org directly. Thank-you!