“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.”
— Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Our culture has always had a complex relationship with the food we consume. However, though the 19th-century gastronome’s concerns revolved around choosing the correct cheese for dessert, ours have become increasingly tied into a notion of social and environmental responsibility. On September 15, Concordia is holding its first Sustainable Food Festival in hopes of bringing together a diverse group of organizations and people who are pioneering changes toward a better food system in Montreal.
Kim Fox, the Concordia student and organic food proponent behind the initiative, conceived the event as an attempt to deconstruct the path that led us to accept what she views as a “sick, unjust, and dispossessed” food production system. “The thought that I did not know where my food was coming from or what was in it, or that the people who were producing [it] were often unable to feed themselves, or that it was making me sick rather than strong, or that food production and transport is actually the leading cause of environmental degradation… It all makes me angry.”
The festival is a one-day event which, beyond the obligatory free-of-charge tastings, promises a broad line-up of events and organizations throughout the day. Restaurants like Burritoville and Crudessence will serve their own organic foods, and local farms and urban gardens (including McGill’s own Campus Crops) will be present alongside soup kitchens, food banks, advocacy groups, and specialty stores, all accompanied by live music.
The festival will also feature more than a dozen demonstrations on topics such as seed-saving, food politics, self-watering containers, preserves, permaculture (agricultural techniques that mimic natural environments), and more. Even a media centre has been set up for festival goers to watch various short films about food issues and potential solutions, and to take a look at an interactive map of Montreal, which Fox created in conjunction with the festival. The map locates various initiatives around the city and invites participants to click on them to learn more about what they do, why they do it, and how to get involved.
After all is said and done, Fox hopes that festival goers will leave with a revitalized approach to their food. “I hope that the next time [visitors] go into a supermarket or restaurant – or even the next time they sit down to eat – that they have lots of new questions and that we provide them with plenty of resources and skills to help answer them.” Fox’s ultimate ambitions, however, reach beyond the festival and into our campus communities. “I would like to see more [courses] incorporating food and food issues into their discussions…food should be brought front and centre as a critical area of study,” she said.
“But everyone has some part to play in this,” Fox continued. “I would like to see support across Montreal for the various initiatives that are being engineered to make positive and sustainable changes,” she said. While she argues that dialogue is a step in the correct direction, Fox concedes that there is no overarching solution to current food problems. The Concordia Sustainable Food Festival aims to provide a venue for these discussions, but also promises to be an rewarding culinary and learning experience.