News from the UC Sustainability Office

Studying Sustainability: Food resilience and food security

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Creating food security is an important issue for many places around the world, including Christchurch. In particular after the earthquakes the importance of creating a localised food system that can meet food needs and can a681ef3e-1469-4a90-9f51-48f51e56211ewithstand external shocks (such as natural disasters, economic challenges or social upheaval) has become very clear! In this post, UC student Sasha Goburdhone explains what he has learned about food security and food resilience. Sasha is a third-year UC student double majoring in Anthropology and Psychology.

Last semester, I enrolled in an (undergraduate) anthropology course, Journalism, Media and Public Anthropology, for which we had to produce a piece of public writing for a community-based organisation. Our group chose the Christchurch branch of the Soil and Health Association, an organisation that advocates organic food production and local food security. Our piece contributed to the launch of a new initiative, the Food Resilience Network – a network of people and organisations aimed at developing local food resilience in Greater Christchurch. My report focused on the secondary school Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti’s involvement in the Dovedale community gardens at UC.

As I delved into this project, I realised how unstable both the local and the global food supply is. Food resilience, as defined by the Food Resilience Network, is the ability of each household to sustainably meet its own food requirements, withstanding external shocks, like natural disasters. And since the earthquakes, we all know how devastating natural disasters can be to food supply. Most of us rely heavily on supermarket food supply, which literally fell apart during the quakes. But it isn’t just about disasters, it’s also about crop survival – coffee prices are going to rise as a result of coffee crop disease overseas. And crop disease can easily occur with food that New Zealand grows as well, predominantly because of the intensive manner – monocropping – in which food is grown.

With a sustainable food supply, monocropping (intensively cultivating one crop type) goes out the window, and more attention is paid to the ecology of the environment in which food is produced. This also includes storage: most foodstuffs can be stored for much longer than is commonly known and are often unnecessarily thrown away by both retailer and consumer because they look bad.

This is where both schools and community gardens can play an important role. Both community gardens and school gardens encourage local food production and, when working together, they can often find a place of mutual benefit.

In the process of this project, I learned that both children and teenagers really enjoy gardening, which makes for easy teaching about food resilience, not to mention the joy of eating homegrown produce. School gardening teaches children and teenagers about the outdoors and where their food comes from. KEG [1] teaches children how to grow food and how to cook it, whilst secondary school students at Unlimited take a more scientific approach, such as creating a worm farm.

Community gardens highlight the ability of communities to ensure local community members have relative autonomy over their crop supply and storage. They are a fun environment and a great way for community members to learn about gardening, harvesting crops and enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Inspired? Want to know more or get involved? For Christchurch-based food resilience initiatives, have a look at for instance Agropolis Urban Farm, Christchurch Food Forest Collective or Garden City 2.0. Or check out www.localisingfood.com.

UCs two community gardens are Dovedale, located at the Dovedale campus, and Okeover, located near the Okeover stream. So, if you are interested in gardening, come on down for one of the Garden Bees on Fridays from 1 to 4 pm. Check here for more information about UCs community gardens.

[1] a programme brought about by Soil and Health, called Kids Edible Gardens (KEGs), which aims to involved Christchurch primary school children with edible gardening

 

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Author: Puck Algera - UC Sustainability Office

Puck worked at the Sustainability Office at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. As the Sustainability Projects Coordinator, she kept busy with student and staff engagement, providing strategic input and advice and organising sustainability-focused events.

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