Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 9, 2007
Local action group promotes locally produced food
Greater Edmonton Alliance and United church try to boost consumer influence
By BILL GLEN
"People want to buy locally grown food from major stores, but they can't."
"We were talking about the high cost of fuel and about how grocery stores just pass that cost onto the consumer. We wondered how much we would save if we bought food locally. That spearheaded the whole idea," said Robinson, who chairs Ebenezer United Church's local and global justice committee.
"By using the data we collected and based upon what we saved in one evening, we determined we would save one million litres of fuel over a year."
Some of the foods used for the dinner were salad ingredients purchased from Old Strathcona Farmers Market, grown near Devon. Robinson said there were fewer than 50 km travelled, compared to 2,500 km for vegetables not produced locally. This resulted in significant transportation savings and 587 grams fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
The ham came from Vegreville. Potatoes came from just north of Edmonton.
"When we go into a store, it's difficult to identify what is or isn't purchased locally," she said. Ebenezer wants to work with other churches to influence stores to make local foods more available.
The work done by Ebenezer leaders launched the Organized Food Buyers of GEA project. The Edmonton Archdiocese and several Catholic parishes are members of GEA.
The project's objectives include organizing $5 million of grocery buying power across the region, researching the distribution policies of local grocery stores and beginning discussions with management about increasing access to local foods.
"People want to buy locally grown food from major stores, but they can't. It isn't provided," Walters said.
"If I go to the grocery store as one person and say our household spends $5,000 a year on groceries, I won't be taken seriously. Whereas it would be different if I go representing $5 million inside of a congregation."
Walters would like to meet with local food producers and restaurant owners about their interests and to host a food fare demonstrating the possibilities in organized buying and a new kind of relationship to the marketplace.
Organizing other congregations to the amount of $5 million would create significant buying power, Walters says.
"The $5 million is money already being spent on groceries. Why not have organized food buyers to focus it?"
And why limit organized buying only to food? Walters sees a group of organized car buyers, mortgage purchasers or even solar panel buyers.
"Many would argue that organizing is about searching for and discovering people with leadership potential, then bringing them into public life and public power to act with others for a common good," Walters said.
"This is true, but it is also about a paradigm shift of moving people away from the individual to the organized. Our families and households have been left in isolation when dealing with today's major government and market forces."
For more information, contact Michael Walters at 982-4635 or 485-1089.
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