Festival promotes local food options

A food festival aims to raise money and awareness about Vancouver Island’s food supply.

A food festival aims to raise money and awareness about Vancouver Island’s food supply.

The Harvest Festival is set for Sept. 10 on Wesley Street in the Old City Quarter and features a food challenge, pitting chefs head-to-head to create the tastiest dishes using only local food.

“Food issues are such a timely topic today,” said Mark Corbett, marketing director for the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association, which is one of the major sponsors of the event.

Chefs from The Nest, Wesley Street Cafe, Five-Minute Gourmet, Real Food, Acme Food Co., Modern Cafe and Nanaimo Foodshare were matched with area farmers to create tapas-style food.

The creations will be sold in bites for a few dollars, which will help restaurants cover costs and support Foodshare, and festival goers will vote on the tastiest dish by donating food to Loaves and Fishes community food bank.

Some local celebrity judges will also be on hand, said Corbett.

The festival includes the annual CANStruction challenge, where engineers design structures from cans of food, donated from local grocery stores.

This year, more than $2,700 was donated by Nanaimo stores.

“You’re talking in the hundreds of cans, depending on the structures they have in mind,” Corbett said.

Wesley Street will be closed for the day and lined with information booths and interactive displays on food topics, such as sustainability, urban agriculture, composting, community gardens and more.

“We want to educate people about what’s going on locally around food,” Corbett said.

Crystal Dennison, executive director with Foodshare, which is not only a beneficiary of the festival but also an advisor in planning, said people can get involved in community gardens or a gleaning program to increase their consumption of local food.

“We don’t want to knock the grocery stores,” she said. “We can’t get everything we need from the Island.

“It doesn’t have to be one way or the other.”

The festival will also feature musical entertainment, such as bluegrass, folk and fiddle bands.

“We want to have fun and educate people,” Corbett said.

The Harvest Festival is set for Sept. 10, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wesley Street will be closed to traffic during the event.

For more information, please visit www.dnbia.ca.