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SELRS at the Lake – SELRS Update March 15, 2012

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

Much of the success of the GFSA Network has been a result of the facilitated Community Building Food Security (CBFS) workshops that Network communities have hosted over the last seven years. These workshops have helped organize and leverage the food security efforts of groups and individuals within these communities, provided forum to share some great stories and feast on some incredible food together. The capacity these workshops build for the Network are also a main reason why the SELRS project is now underway and completing its first phase in the Central Alberta region.

Over the CBFS years, Sylvan Lake hosted workshops via their community group Growing Green Neighbours. Momentum was built and much was accomplished – but, like most volunteer organizations, sustainable volunteer recruitment proved a challenge to maintain that momentum. With the SELRS project in full swing, Growing Green Neighbours took advantage of the opportunity of being a supporting community of the project to unite and galvanize their efforts. On February 29, they hosted another CBFS workshop – only, this time, they had the unique distinction of being able to measure their activities through the lenses of sustainability, equity, and regeneration in a values-based, local food system context. This workshop opportunity also helped to gauge the shape and effectiveness of the developing SELRS framework.

Growing Green Neighbours progress

  • 2008 – raising awareness, getting people to the table, supporting local community gardens, collective kitchens and various programs
  • 2009 – discussions on food sovereignty, education, connecting with farmers, school food policy, asset mapping
  • 2010 – community kitchen and community garden management and expansion, food inclusion in municipal sustainability plan
  • 2011 – community kitchen and community garden management and expansion

It’s important to note that CBFS workshops are traditionally 2-day events. This allows enough time to digest the information, understand food security, and build the relationships necessary for sustainable and successful action. It’s also a good excuse for eating more local food together!

Since Sylvan Lake has previously hosted CBFS workshops, we agreed that a one-day refresher would be adequate to revisit food security, expand on food sovereignty, and find a common vision for what a sustainable, equitable, local and regenerative system for food looks like – not to mention help refocus the current and desired actions of Growing Green Neighbours. About 10 people participated on and off throughout the day and we ended up with agreement, if not full understanding, of the intricacies of a community food system and where Sylvan Lake can succeed with its own food security efforts in support of a SELRS for food in Central Alberta. For Growing Green Neighbours, the actionable results of the workshop can be simplified as:

  • coordinate an awareness campaign and complete asset mapping exercise to create a local food directory for Sylvan Lake
  • re-populate Growing Green Neighbours – extend invitation to community members to join
  • consider competition between municipalities for local food system action and food policy development

We can see that a lot of overlap exists with the SELRS project. And more, the recently formed working groups supported by GFSA are building capacity for member communities to work together more effectively, including:

  • BUZZ – preparing a food security campaign for the upcoming provincial election based on the successful Peoples Food Policy Project
  • Farm to School – connecting local food producers and projects to schools
  • 3rd Place & Infrastructure – investigating the potential for a community food centre concept via Toronto’s “The Stop Community Food Centre” model
  • Marketing & Awareness – implementing open source technology to build more effective online communications and project management

A group is now working on refinements of this workshop and creating a CBFS/SELRS fusion that can be presented to other communities in central Alberta with an invitation to join GFSA and the SELRS project. We look forward to working with additional communities in the central region including Olds, Lacombe, Rocky Mountain House, Camrose and many others!

Taking the Sylvan Lake experience forward, the SELRS project will wrap its first phase in Lacombe with an asset mapping workshop on March 27. Together, we’ll make available all of the data we’ve gathered, connections we’ve made, and nurture the developing relationships for a truly community-based food system supported by relationship, action, food and fun!

Submitted by Rene Michalak and Brenda Barritt.



1. Katrina Kellner - March 27, 2013

Can’t wait for the next SELRS workshop!!!

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