Opinion

Food non-profits could use help of ‘angels’

Christmas teaches that all excess is self-defeating; that relationships, preferably family, are priceless; and that traditional foods properly made are better than packaged, over-processed meals.

Now what are we going to do to replace a globalized food industry which has devastated land and failed to produce safe and nourishing food?

Two promising local initiatives in food security deserve support. One is the proposal by the Island Roots Co-operative to build a permanent farmers’ market at Beban Park and the other is Nanaimo Foodshare’s dream of acquiring the last two-hectare land grant in Harewood as a centre to train people to grow food and incubate projects and education around food security.

Of course, the obstacle is money. Both require capital outlay which is beyond the budgets of small civil society organizations. Some people in the ‘private’ sector regard non-profits as inefficient because they do not generate profit. Some people in the ‘public’ sector (government) see non-profits as inefficient. And the non-profit sector is bedevilled by competition for handouts from the other two sectors.

This is not the place to dissect the failures of economic and banking systems based solely on the profit motive. What we have to do is set some priorities and figure out how to raise funds from those who control pockets of money, some in private business, some in government and some of us as individuals.

We’ve been seeing a lot of pictures of angels recently. I like the word as used by old-time entrepreneurs in the theatrical business. They spoke of ‘angels’ as the indispensable rich patrons who would bankroll productions. People like you and me can be that kind of ‘angel’ on a small scale if enough of us pledge quite small amounts to top up donations from business and government.

Nanaimo and Area Land Trust uses this method to help purchase land, for example in the Linley Valley and on Mount Benson. Our household pledged regular donations over a two-year period to help buy South Winchelsea Island and I can attest that it was quite painless. As I look out from my Lantzville home, I can see the island, beside the other Winchelsea which is a U.S./Canada naval test site, and feel the satisfaction that South Winchelsea is publicly owned.

Many of us have sufficient income to join special pledge campaigns. In our case, we have more than we need, so we make monthly donations to four local charities, three of them food-related, and we see this as an open-ended commitment. But we also have enough to join fixed time campaigns now and then.

We are fortunate that our children are all self-sufficient and we have steady income and we take satisfaction from the results of successful campaigns.

Another reason we can afford to channel money to worthy projects is our love of good, home-cooked food. None of our money goes to fast food.

Our food budget goes on quality ingredients from farmers’ markets and the winter market at the Pleasant Valley Hall has extended availability.

Likewise, a food security centre training future farmers will build the farmers’ markets we need.

Marjorie Stewart is past-chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

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