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Putting the spotlight on food

Whistler 2020 organizes screening of Fresh documentary to offer an in-depth look at industrial food systems

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What: Fresh screening

When: Friday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m.

Where: SLCC, Upper Village

Cost: By donation

Film can be used pretty effectively as an educational tool, and one Whistler organization is planning on employing that power this weekend with a screening of the documentary Fresh .

Fresh aims to offer up some insight into North America's "broken industrial food system" which relies on commodity crops and uses chemicals and factory farm practices that many people feel are both harmful and unsustainable. Filmmakers examine the governmental policies that are responsible for creating this current agribusiness model, and interview "heroes" of the agricultural and food production industry working to enact positive change.

Whistler 2020, a community organization that is committed to achieving social and environmental sustainability and a healthy economy, is presenting the film at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, followed by a panel discussion. Kevin Damaskie is the coordinator for Whistler 2020, which includes the issue of food as just one of the many priorities for sustainable development identified through public consultation that have emerged from the program.

"The Whistler 2020 food strategy is actually the newest strategy, so when Whistler 2020 rolled out in 2005, there were 16 strategy areas that had been identified by the community as kind of all the important pieces which are the puzzle of Whistler as a resort community," Damaskie explained.

Initially, food had been lumped under the category of health, social and residential affordability strategies, but it soon became apparent that the issue was important enough to standalone.

"We realized we didn't have a whole bunch of farmers... or producers, we didn't have a whole bunch of chefs and restaurateurs sitting on those task forces, so I started to connect with those people."

Damaskie saw a huge opportunity to connect the retail side of the community with the local food production that is taking place just up the highway, in the Pemberton Valley. And food isn't just important to our community.

"In this community and all across North America, you start looking at large planning organizations like the American Planning Association, they're realizing that focusing planning decisions and actions around food is as valuable as water conservation and transportation and urban planning and mass transportation because they're all connected, and everybody eats," he said.

So when Damaskie discovered Fresh , he went to the food task force and suggested that they screen the film to the inquiring minds in Whistler, and the members immediately started planning to make it happen.

"It's the perfect example of how the community task force process is supposed to work: active engaged citizens that care about their strategy areas bringing and sharing knowledge and action opportunities with the rest of the community," Damaskie said.

Though Fresh focuses on American communities, Damaskie is confident there are enough similarities between the food systems that the underlying ideas are applicable here, too, though the problem in Canada isn't quite at the same level as that south of the border.

"There's a crisis in American cities that obesity rates and health issues connected are on the rise from the over-consumption of over-processed foods," Damaskie said. "The lack of access to quality, healthy, local, even potentially organic foods doesn't exist in many of these mega-cities, and generally this becomes a problem for the living, working urban poor."

He points out that here in Whistler, we aren't at that crisis point, and actually have good access to fresh, local foods. By showing this film, Damaskie and the rest of the Whistler 2020 food task force hope to start a local dialogue about our food systems in Canada and closer to home.

"The example is showing what individual, passionate citizens that are committed to a cause can actually achieve, and that theme is directly connected to Whistler 2020."

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