Speaking the truth: Food for the Future

by Bruce Mason

Jeremy Loveday in a supermarket
Everyone is a food activist when they are hungry, but questions come slowly to the bellyful. – Jeremy Loveday.

• Jeremy Loveday’s video-poem, Masks Off – A Challenge to Men, garnered more than 820,000 views. It also sparked global debate and attracted media attention from Brazil to Zambia. The Victoria-based performance artist hopes his latest work will be even more successful. After all, Food for the Future: Stand up for Local Food Systems, is about food security, a challenge that is urgent, universal and one that humanity can and must meet. View the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0ib5ixA90I.

The two-and-a-half-minute video begins with a local focus, in Victoria on Vancouver Island where folks spent $5.4 billion on food in 2006; gross farm receipts were $163.7 million, representing only three percent of the total spent on food. And current food stocks would last only three days after a disaster. “Nine meals each, if we are lucky,” says Loveday, who adds, “Everyone is a food activist when they are hungry, but questions come slowly to the bellyful.”

Videographer Lliam Hildebrand utilizes three key locations: a big-box store, the BC Legislature and Woodwynn Farms, a 193-acre organic farm and therapeutic community for the homeless. The ultimate goal: cultivation and perfection of human beings as well as growing crops. As part of Woodwynn’s “Creating Homefulness” program, 400 new fruit trees have been planted and acres of mixed vegetable gardens developed.

I caught wind of the video on Common Sense Canadian (www.commonsensecanadian.ca), a site which offers “an uncommonly sensible take on our economy and environment.” The posting of Food for the Future included a link to warnings from leading, independent agrologists about the BC Liberal government’s intention to flood and impact more than 30,000 acres of fertile farmland for the Site C Dam – land that could feed one million people if its agricultural potential was allowed to flourish.

“Awareness is our first step in the march to food justice,” says Loveday. “With our forks and pitchforks, we have an opportunity to rebuild a community that is capable of feeding itself.

With the goal of “making ‘locally grown’ more than a catchphrase of the week,” he hopes “we place our love of the soil ahead of addiction to oil…” Loveday notes, “Every bite counts but food security is more than full bellies; it is the difference between medicine and healing… And the people are hungry for change.”

A two-time Victoria Poetry Slam Champion, Loveday performs at festivals, coffee shops and on street corners. He spearheaded a project to create a youth poet laureate position in Victoria – the only one in Canada – and has been the Director of Youth Outreach for the Victoria Poetry Project for the past four years.

A living, breathing example of the wisdom of investing in arts funding as integral to education, he recalls seeing the documentary Slam in high school. “I was blown away and felt connected; it was transformative, empowering,” he recalls.

“In Victoria, I found a supportive community. While building truth, we are building community. That’s where the buzz is,” says Loveday, who not only participates at local “Tongues of Fire” events, but created Victorious Voices. Last month, five-member teams from eight schools competed. That’s 40 new, young poets, writing, performing and having their passion celebrated.

Loveday works with words primarily to engage and entertain live audiences, to “look them in the eye.” But he will take YouTube and UpWorthy if he can get them. Long gone are the days of mainstream radio playing protest songs. He and Hildebrand point out that alternative artists have created alternative resources and interactive networks, new avenues and enhanced opportunities for sharing and discussing in real time.

Everyone is involved in food security, if only unconsciously. The time to start gardening is now. It is also time to boycott big-box stores, corporate agriculture and “frankenfoods,” while pressuring government to reinvest in farming.

If you know progressive artists with alternative messages, Common Ground wants to share their work. Please keep in tune and in touch.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

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