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Launched: Vancouver food security

Food Policy Centre's Food Secure Vancouver Study and Foodtree Media's new Foodtree mobile application  had their launch last night at Creekside Community Centre.

About 100 Vancouverites gathered on Wednesday night at Creekside Community Centre to discuss food security in Vancouver and the surrounding region.

The day marked the release of both the Food Policy Centre's Food Secure Vancouver Study, and local technology company Foodtree Media's new Foodtree mobile application. It was the release of these that brought approximately100 attendees together over sautéed tacos and oyster fritters to sit down and discuss food sustainability.

 While both organizations are concerned with food security, each studies and advocates for the pressing issue from a unique angle: one through research and policy while the other through interactive social media.

Under the Vancouver Food Policy Centre in partnership with the City of Vancouver, the study began in 2008 as a way to identify, review and analyze the key factors that support and enhance Vancouver's food security. Brent Mansfield, Food Secure Vancouver Study Advisory committee member said the committee was tasked with examining the relationship between economic, social, environmental and health issues that contribute to local food security.

 "The reason why we're trying to do this is really to try to develop a baseline where we can see key indicators and how they change," Mansfield said. While the study began in 2008, Mansfield says the intention is to continue with the project for years to come. "We believe there's a lot of vulnerabilities in our system, and we believe that that perception in the public and in policy makers is emerging that we need to look at food systems. When we begin to piece together these problematic things we begin to see the system as very vulnerable. When you begin to see increasing levels of chronic diseases, when you begin to understand that the viability of farmers [is decreasing] and that the age of farmers is increasing. When you begin to understand the amount of waste that exists in our food system," he added. 

 While the Vancouver Food Policy Centre tracks and examines data to be used for public policy, Foodtree Media has developed a new mobile application to be used by the public.

The app allows users to photograph local food at farmers markets with their mobile and key in what the item is, where it was found  and where it was sourced from. The item and its information is then accessible to other users of the app and lets them know where the freshest carrots, beets or lettuce can be found in and around Vancouver. While the app currently only links consumers with farmers markets and their sources, the developers hope to expand to restaurants and eventually map out the entire region, Derek Shanahan, Foodtree's Chief Community Officer, explained.

 Foodtree is designed as "an opportunity for you to participate in the food system. It is an opportunity to make the food system more democratic and transparent, and transform the way it works so that you're not relying on other people to tell you what you should eat or keep you safe, but you can live in a world where you are actually taking responsibility for what you eat, but that's not a total pain in the ass,"  Foodtree CEO Anthony Nicalo said.

 While the meeting involved presentations from both organizations there was extensive opportunity for audience participation. There were group discussions, feedback sessions, social chats over the evening's main course all while attendees networked with the intention of working together in the future. Those in attendance brought a variety of professional and personal perspectives to the discussions. There were city employees, event sponsors, farmers, business owners, chefs, public health care professionals and citizens looking to gather more information.

 While many attendees already subscribe to a sustainable food lifestyle, one issue of concern raised during the evening was the importance and problem of determining how to provide information to the mainstream public about the pressing importance of sustainable food practices.

 There will be demonstrations of the Foodtree app at the Trout Lake and Kitsilano Famers Markets this weekend.

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