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Looking Beyond the Supermarket March 30, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

Until a few months ago I knew nothing about the Edmonton local food movement and even less about the organizations that exist in this great city for people interested in eating fresh, clean, and fair food. Then I was approached by Slow Food Edmonton to help run an alternative means of food distribution fair as part of my student internship with Just Food Edmonton. I knew nothing about what was meant by ‘alternative means’ but I was excited to learn more so I jumped on board this project.  The purpose of this event I soon discovered was to connect Edmonton locavores with those who provide fresh, local food in Edmonton.

On Sunday, March 20th Beyond the Supermarket was held at the Nina Haggerty Center for the Arts alongside Seedy Sunday and it was a huge success. Approximately fourteen different CSA’s, bulk buying clubs, foraging clubs, and other organizations filled the space, and over 200 members of the Edmonton community came to find out how they could obtain their food from sources beyond the supermarket. The event was run in a world cafe style, so instead of the producers standing behind a booth and trying to sell product while answering your questions, they were sat at tables throughout the venue where interested consumers could come get answers without feeling pressured. For someone like me, who was completely new to this, I found it super easy to converse with the producers and find out what I wanted to know (not to mention the convenience of having a variety of choices in one space)!

Along with all the attendees I learned a tremendous amount about the community supported agriculture opportunities (CSA’s) that exist around the Edmonton area, and urban ventures like box schemes, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, and the Community Garden Network. Coming from a food related degree I was amazed I had never heard of these organizations and I was really surprised with how many opportunities there are to obtain local food here in Edmonton. This event has really had me questioning my own shopping habits the past few days and debating if this is something I as a student could find possible to implement into my life. Before I talked with many of the producers I thought there was no way I would be able to make eating local work. First of all, I have no car so how was I supposed to get out to the farms to pick up my products? Well, many of these organizations offer delivery right to your door, so that’s one excuse gone. I also assumed wrongly that I would have to order a whole cow, or a whole load of vegetables but many box schemes like Eat Local First (or often called the good food box) offer customized ordering online, so that myth was busted. Lastly, I wondered how feasible it would be able to afford eating local on a tight student budget. Then I thought about Operation Fruit Rescue, where I could receive plenty of local fruit this summer if I offer a few volunteer hours to go pick fruit off of unpicked trees in the city. Also I considered community gardens, like the one two blocks away from my house on the U of A campus, where for nothing more but some of my time I could receive fresh vegetables throughout the summer.

Eating local at first may seem like a big hurdle but when you break it down and discover all the options that exist in Edmonton, but there has to be at least one small change that everyone could incorporate into their lives. A change from every Edmontonian to search out local food (even if it is a small one) and buy less food from out of province would have such a positive effect on our community. First of all we are supporting our community members by buying their products and providing them with an income instead of a foreign company. Also by obtaining our food from the Edmonton area we have less of an effect on the environment, as transport is minimal and we know how our food is being produced. Local food is also often more nutritious food because it hasn’t travelled thousands of miles to reach your table; it’s fresher and higher in nutritional value. Lastly buying local helps build relationships with your producer so you know how your food was produced, and options like community gardens help build community.

All of the producers involved noted that they would be interested in attending Beyond the Supermarket next year, so keep your eyes open for Beyond the Supermarket 2012. If you want more information on what local food opportunities exist in Edmonton, check out Slow Food Edmonton’s website in the next few weeks for a compiled list of all the organizations who attended Beyond the Supermarket, plus more!

Submitted by Laura White.  Laura is a 3rd year nutrition major student in the faculty of  Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of  Alberta. Since September she has been partnered with Just Food  Edmonton as part of a Non-Profit Board Student Internship through the  Community Service Learning program at the U of A.



1. SherryGreens - March 30, 2011

Wow, that is great! I am sad I missed the Beyond the Supermarket event, it sounds really interesting. I am also looking to find more local food in Edmonton, and to encourage others to do the same. I think one of the biggest hurdles is knowing where to find local food, and finding the time to research all the places you can get it. Once you do the research, it is amazing what you can find, but many people don’t know about options other than the farmer’s market and can’t be bothered to find out, so they just keep going to the supermarket instead… Events like these help get the word out!

2. Laura White - March 30, 2011

Thanks for the comment Sherry. You’ve touched upon why we wanted to host this event in the first place, the hurdle of finding where to get local food! Check Slow Food Edmonton’s Website in the next few weeks for a compiled list of many local food ventures, and mark your calender for next March and Beyond the Supermarket 2012!

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