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Everything’s On the Table for Talk and Food

British Columbians are invited to join the Vancouver Foundation’s 75th anniversary event where you can be the host.

By Tyee Staff 20 Aug 2018 | TheTyee.ca

It’s no secret that the Lower Mainland tends to be socially isolating; that some regions of British Columbia have good reason to be concerned about food security; that farming seems ever more difficult. And still there remains a persistent habit of excluding certain people from the table throughout our work and social lives. But what can be done about it?

For its 75th anniversary, the Vancouver Foundation is inviting British Columbians to take one step towards these issues by talking face-to-face over food. The event, called On The Table, is a decentralized event happening across the province on Thursday, Sept. 13. As of mid-August, 275 people have signed up to be hosts. They’re individuals, small business owners and community organizers. They’ll invite anywhere from three to 30 people to meet up over food and talk about what’s on their mind.

The table is wide open, which is unusual for an anniversary event, but as communications director Glenn Ewald says, “When you turn 75, you get a certain amount of freedom to [do] things the way you want.” For their 75th anniversary, the foundation wanted to do something that would involve the community and create a sense of welcome and belonging. Part of the inspiration was a report it published last year, called Connect and Engage, which identified a growing sense of isolation and loneliness in the Lower Mainland. The foundation’s birthday wish, so to speak, is for British Columbians to have a chance to connect.

“Mostly we’re hoping this will be a reminder to people of what we all wish we could do more of, which is connect with the people around us,” Ewald says. “And to do that in the oldest way in the book that we as humans know how to do, you do it over breaking bread.”

For local entrepreneur Sarah White, jumping in as a host it was a no-brainer — but she’s less concerned about what’s on the table.

“We’ve been wanting to talk about who’s at the table and who’s not at the table,” she says. Increasingly in the last couple of years, she’s noticed the overly white representation on panels and at conferences, even surprisingly to her, in progressive movements. “People might be unconscious of it, or think they’re doing a great job, but there are still people feeling uncomfortable or not safe or not represented.”

White and co-organizers hope to develop guidelines for conference and event planners to be more inclusive, to consider whose voices are being heard, who’s being invited, and who’s being excluded. They’re inviting people from the arts, music and business communities who feel like they always get the same people at their events, and don’t know how to fix it.

“You’ve got to give something up. If you’re a thought leader, you have to maybe step aside and let someone else speak,” she says.

On the Sunshine Coast, Gibsons-based Persephone Brewing is hosting an event where the main topic will be no, not beer, but food. Agriculture is close to the heart of the Persephone team. On their 11-acre farm, they grow hops, but also vegetables sold and distributed to restaurants and through a community-supported agriculture program. Last Christmas Persephone donated $5,000 to three local schools that were starting agriculture programs. Tasting room manager Roo Miller-Petit is excited about getting kids into agriculture — the tasting room currently has a lemonade stand that continues to raise funds for the program — and sees it as a necessary part of having secure food systems on the Sunshine Coast.

851px version of PersephoneBrewingGibsons.jpg
For Persephone Brewing, On the Table is a chance to ‘share on what more we could be doing to increase food systems on the coast.’ Photo by Rebecca Bollwit, Creative Commons licensed.

“It’s important to make the most of the land that we’re on,” Miller-Petit says. “We’re at the mercy of the ferries. If there’s any sort of natural disaster, we’d have only a few days’ worth of food here.”

Teachers, local farmers, people at food-related organizations and residents of the coast are invited to come to the Persephone farm to talk food over locally-sourced pizza and beer.

“I want to see people have this open dialogue,” he says. “Really it’s just an idea share on what more we could be doing to increase food systems on the coast.”

Not all events are so focused on a particular issue. Kevin Huang, executive director of Hua Foundation, is convening a group of colleagues to reconnect, slow down and listen to each other.

“With the type of work we do, we sometimes forget how important it is to put the phone away and connect with each other,” Huang says.

The only guideline he’ll set is to stay away from strategizing about their advocacy work. He wants the gathering to be a respite, a chance to open up space to connect and listen.

“Just being in the presence of a table of people, especially on a team, it really changes the dynamic of how we treat each other and how we talk to each other,” Huang says.  [Tyee]

Read more: Food

This article is part of a Tyee Presents initiative. Tyee Presents is the special sponsored content section within The Tyee where we highlight contests, events and other initiatives that are either put on by us or by our select partners. The Tyee does not and cannot vouch for or endorse products advertised on The Tyee. We choose our partners carefully and consciously, to fit with The Tyee’s reputation as B.C.’s Home for News, Culture and Solutions. Learn more about Tyee Presents here.

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