Megan Morgan is a coordinator for VIU’s Campus Food Movement, a campus club that aims to not only bring local and organic food to students, but to educate them on sustainable agriculture. Founded in 2011, the group has already made headway with its workshops, forums, and food events.
The Navigator: What are the goals of the Campus Food Movement? Is it all about eating local?
Megan Morgan: The goal is to get more local, sustainably sourced food into VIU, and also to embed food sustainability and food security into curriculum…getting food education put into courses.
N: Where would these topics fit into curriculum?
MM: One course we’ve worked with is with an anthropology professor. The course was all about community and food security, so students would do projects like work on a farm for a day or work with Nanaimo Food Share.
N: Can you tell me about the history of the group? When did the Campus Food Movement get started?
MM: We got started two years ago, in 2011. We are part of a cohort of nine universities across Canada that also have campus food strategy groups on their campuses as well. This whole national cohort was started by Meal Exchange and Sierra Youth Coalition, which are both non-profit organizations.
N: Personally, why do you think local agriculture is important?
MM: There’s a lot of global problems that people are often overwhelmed by or intimidated by, and it just becomes too much and it becomes easy to ignore those problems—food is a really good way of connecting people’s everyday lives to these big global problems like climate change and environmental degradation. Local food is a really good way that people can become involved, just by changing their eating habits.
N: What are the benefits for an individual with a local diet?
MM: A local diet is fresh, so it’s healthier for you; you’re supporting the local economy by purchasing from producers in your area; and you’re also lowering the distance the food has to be transported to get to your plate.
N: Is it easy to eat local in Nanaimo?
MM: It’s easier than some places. Nanaimo has a relatively long growing season compared to other cities in Canada. There are three or four farmers’ markets in town, but on campus it’s not generally easy to eat local because most of our food comes from elsewhere.
N: If we had a cafeteria, that was 100 per cent local, what kind of food would we see?
MM: If we had an all-local cafeteria, you’d be seeing a lot of root vegetables in winter, and you’d be seeing a lot of goat and poultry—you wouldn’t be seeing the Coca Cola products, and you wouldn’t be seeing the processed snacks and junk food.
N: Aside from working with faculty, what kind of things does the group do?
MM: There’s a small farmers’ market that happens every Thursday from 11-1:30pm, where one vendor sells organic produce from a farm out in Cedar called Growing Opportunities Co-op. We’re also going to do a placemaking event in the community garden with the community garden club and Solutions, the sustainability network at VIU, and that’s going to be a celebration of good food. Usually at least once a year we have some sort of local food event where we bring everybody together to celebrate local food; and the rest of the semester, the bulk of our work, is working with our multi-stakeholder group, which is faculty or administration, and anybody who has a stake in food on campus.
N: What has the feedback from students and faculty been like so far?
MM: Really supportive. The people who get involved are interested in food issues, and that’s how we’ve been able to keep going forward as a movement for two years now.
N: When did you first become aware of the movement towards local food?
MM: I’m originally from Alberta, so I didn’t have any idea of it. Local food wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. I started volunteering at the community garden on campus, and that’s when I learned where plants come from and why it’s important to eat healthy. I became involved with the Campus Food Movement and started reading books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so it’s been a long process of learning about food issues.
N: Since you’re not from Nanaimo, what’s your favourite island dish?
MM: I really like butternut squash soup. I just made a huge vat of it today. Vancouver Island also has a lot of poultry products, which I’ve been taking advantage of as well.