Here at Meal Exchange we are celebrating the success of one of our favourite events of the year, the National Student Food Summit! Thes annual national gatherings to support and empower students on college and university campuses across Canada to take an active role in creating a just, sustainable, and resilient food system, and the National Student Food Summit is a great opportunity for the students that form the base of this movement to gather, share ideas and insights, and meet with others invested in this work.
This year’s summit was held at the University of Guelph. We had the privilege of having Elder Carol Tyler open our conference with a recognition and welcome to the territory we were on. An Indigenous Food Sovereignty Feast and Dialogue, in partnership with the 4Rs Youth Movement, helped us to further explore how, in our involvement in food work, we can move both our conversations and our actions closer to a place of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. These challenging conversations set the foundation for a productive and thought-provoking conference.
The remainder of the summit was a truly inspiring series of speakers, panel discussions, and workshops that showcased the amazing work being done to bring local food to campuses and to make campus food systems healthier, more sustainable, and more just for all.
These included discussions with Gabriel Allahdua, a former migrant farm worker who today works as an organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, and Lorna Willis, the Vice President of Operations with Dana Hospitality, a campus food service provider that seeks to empower chefs to provide the freshest, healthiest food for students and promote local growers and producers.
We were also lucky to hear from students about the incredible work they have been doing to bring local food at their campuses across Canada. This included research into making local agriculture more diverse and the opening of a student led on-campus garden at Georgian College, allowing them to serve ultra-local food.
We also focused on developing practical skills to apply on campuses; facilitators led a series of amazing workshops including food systems mapping, effectively marketing campus food banks, and even an edible plant walk. These workshops allowed students to have meaningful conversations and develop concrete skills to take back to their campuses to further their work.
We were also able to take a trip Whole Circle Farms to learn directly from local farmers about their efforts to farm sustainably and in cooperation with the earth, and we were even able to dig our hands into the soil for a little weeding!
We were truly inspired by all the hard work, thoughtful conversations, and community building over the course of the summit, and are looking forward to working with and supporting these students in their work. We are confident that, together, we can continue to build a community for good food for all.