Food Matters – We Heart Local Awards

“Local food” has become a real catch-phrase these days. We didn’t have to say ‘local’ in the past, because much of our food was produced close to where we live. The good news is that the concept of local food is back, and various agencies are trying to figure out how to promote it. That’s where you come in. 

Eat NaturalBuy Local, Eat Natural

Local food is being shouted from the social media rooftops these days. Right now the nominations for the ‘We Heart Local’ awards are on the go. This is a province-wide opportunity for the public to nominate their favourite local food and beverage providers…the idea being to build the momentum that has really picked up over the last few years and put some faces to it. You go to the Buy Local, Eat Natural Facebook page, then click on We Heart Local to nominate a local hero, but you only have 5 more days to do that. (July 15th) Then everyone has a chance to vote for their favourite nominees.

Buy Local

The people behind this idea include agencies operating under the non-profit Buy Local, Eat Natural label. So you have the BC Agriculture Council, the BC Ministry of Agriculture, and the BC Association of Farmers Markets, among others. It’s nice to see that the ball is being picked up again by government, since some years ago funding was withdrawn from the popular Buy BC program, turning it into a user-pay promotional vehicle. As it turns out, BC is becoming the home of food policy activism, with over a dozen different programs in various municipalities, so it’s not just a fringe sort of movement, people are really paying attention to it. The Bank of Montreal Food Survey that was released about a week ago found that 85 per cent of people in B.C. try to purchase locally grown vegetables and 80 per cent try to buy local fruit.

I have been watching this scene for nearly 20 years now, I think I started noticing people really starting to talk about local food in the late 90’s, when more and more of the chefs I talked to started telling me about the local produce they were discovering and how much more they liked it than some of the imported stuff they had been dealing with. Then there were a handful of restaurants in Vancouver like Bishop’s and Rain City Grill that put the emphasis on local and seasonal, and of course here on Vancouver Island we had Sooke Harbour House that had been quietly doing it for years come more to the forefront when food media started picking up on it. I think the real push came when that couple from Vancouver arbitrarily picked 100 miles to be the longest distance from which they could choose food for their diet…that 100-mile diet really started being copied all over the place and you still find references to it…they started living that diet back in 2005. At the same time the number of farmers markets in the province has skyrocketed and when it just used to be Saturday morning you would find a market, there are markets nearly every day of the week now.

Once again, nominations end on July 15th and then you can go back to that page and view all the nominees and vote for your favourites in each category until August 5th. When that is all over there are plans that will take the program a little farther than naming the winners but that is still in the works so I’ll have word on that when the details are released. There are prizes for people who nominate their favourite locals, 20 $100 gift cards to your local farmers market, and the Grand Prize – a weekend getaway to the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in beautiful Oliver. All voters and nominators are automatically included into the prize draw.

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