November 24, 2014 - Last weekend, the Rural Agri Innovation Centre (RAIN), located in Sault Ste. Marie, held the area's first ever Food Summit. The event brought together community and business leaders from the Algoma District to discuss developing a local food strategy.
Food Summit coordinators got the idea after seeing the challenges Algoma growers faced in developing markets for local foods. With successful examples of food strategies in places like Toronto and Vancouver, RAIN decided that creating a food strategy would be a great way to support community economic development, as well as a means for improving environmental sustainability, addressing hunger, and building food skills.
The two day event got off to a great start on the Friday night with a dinner prepared with foods grown in the area. Saturday featured guests from northern Ontario who spoke about projects underway in the Algoma District, such as a gleaning program, as well as how other communities are working to strengthen their local food systems. Food Strategy Coordinator Kendal Donahue was among the speakers roster and talked about how her community came together to create the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy.
"Sault Ste. Marie is in a similar place with their strategy as we were a couple years ago," commented Donahue. "In 2012 we held a Food Summit where the community decided to develop a local food strategy. I think what's really interesting is that there are so many parallels between our two communities. Sault Ste. Marie faces many of the same challenges and is taking on many of the same kinds of initiatives as we are. And while the Thunder Bay area is further along in some ways, so too is Sault Ste. Marie. It's really exciting that they're developing a food strategy and that in the near future there will be more ways for us to work together."
The event concluded with several rounds of engaging community discussion, where conference goers talked about ways the community could better work together and how to move forward on developing a strategy.