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Serving up some serious food for thought

Local residents are invited to attend a free forum at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre on June 8 that covers all things food.
Grant Baldwin, waste
Grant Baldwin, producer and director of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, surveys a dumpster of discarded hummus containers.

Local residents are invited to attend a free forum at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre on June 8 that covers all things food.

Burnaby Food Matters: Food for Today & Food for the Future is a Burnaby Food First initiative that dives into the topic of food security, with presentations about the state of food – from seed to table to compost.

“Hopefully, people come away with some renewed hope and some thoughts about what should be happening in Burnaby as far as our local food security is concerned,” says event organizer Grant Rice.

One of the issues the city is facing, according to Rice, is a lack of community gardens in dense neighbourhoods.

“Burnaby is becoming more and more of a dense community and it’s increasingly hard to find lands for the people who live in these multi-residential highrises,” he said.

One of the programs offered by Burnaby Food First to combat this problem is a sharing backyard program, matching people who have land with people who want land so they can do some gardening and share the crops.

Another part of food security, Rice added, is the hunger aspect, when people can’t afford to eat healthy, so they choose the cheaper option that usually carries a lot of sugar and salt. Being able to have a grocer around the corner and access food is also something many people don’t have, he noted.

Food banks, meanwhile, have become a “permanent institution” versus an emergency stop, said Rice, and some food banks offer little to no fresh produce.

There are two parts to the day-long forum at the Nikkei – an afternoon session and an evening session (or both). Each of the speakers will have seven minutes to talk about a specific area of the food system. Following that will be facilitated discussions about how these issues affect participants and how they envision a more food secure Burnaby.

Vancouver’s Jennifer Rustemeyer, producer of the 2010 documentary The Clean Bin Project, and most recently, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, will be sharing her insights at the forum. Her latest film talks about how society throws 40 per cent of food in the garbage.

“You’d be surprised by the quality of food that’s thrown out,” she told the NOW. “A lot of the food we found, there’s really nothing wrong with it at all. Often it just had a date label on it. It was perfectly fresh, perfectly crisp, perfectly tasty and nutritious.”

Eating leftovers, meal planning and shopping with a grocery list are small things people can incorporate into their daily routine, Rustemeyer explained, adding those tweaks could add up to $1,500 a year in savings.

“With fruits and vegetables, people really over estimate the amount they can eat in a week, and they end up going for dinner on Monday and then something’s rotting in the back of your fridge. We have these huge fridges and freezers. We have this impulse to fill it up, even if you’re one person,” she said.

Registration for the food forum starts at 1:15 p.m., with the event kicking off at 2 p.m. For more info, email To sign up for the event, see