Moe Garahan is firmly dedicated to supporting good food in Ottawa, whether that’s the farmers and gardeners who grow it, the retailers who sell it, the restaurants which cook with it, or the agencies who collect it to feed the hungry.
Moe is the Executive Director of Just Food, a grassroots, non-profit organization that champions and supports sustainable food systems in the National Capital Region. She is committed to ensuring that all residents of Ottawa – no matter their age or background – have access to healthy, local food to feed their minds and bodies. For this, Moe Garahan is one of #150GreatPeople, and here she answers the questionnaire:
What makes Ottawa special to you?
Ottawa has so many components of a Good Food city. With 1300+ farms within the City boundaries, including thousands of agricultural acres within the NCC Greenbelt, and a truly innovative culinary scene including new and established food processing businesses, restaurants and retailers, we have the opportunity for a truly, vibrant local food economy for residents and tourists alike. We also have a strong community of volunteers and agencies who care about people who are hungry and work towards getting good food to people in need. It is a community that is working hard to bring both food access and local food to the forefront.
What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?
I am able to bike or bus from my house to the 150-acre Just Food Farm in Blackburn Hamlet that demonstrates a microcosm of cross-generational, cross-cultural communities working together to build a sustainable food and farming hub serving the region for decades to come. I am encouraged by the diversity of people who are a part of rebuilding the food system in the Ottawa region – on farms, in businesses, in community gardens, in schools, and in their homes.
The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?
With 40,000+ people accessing food banks in Ottawa every month, we need to reduce food insecurity to zero.
With the average age of farmers being 55+, we need more farmers to grow food.
With growing pressures of development, climate change, and cost of food, we need to build soil in the city and also preserve farmland, to be able to grow food into the future.
With the majority of seeds being imported annually into Canada, and many seed varieties being lost through commercialization, we need a regional seed bank.
There are solutions for all of this. We need more people to know how to, and choose to, become part of them.
You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?
I am proud of the food systems approach that the team at Just Food facilitates in Ottawa – focusing on strategic use of resources for long-term food and farm initiatives that impact thousands of people in Ottawa.
Just Food has moved from a $20,000 initial project to celebrating 15 years this coming March with the following items to celebrate: supporting 94 community gardens with more growing all the time, 10 years of promoting Savour Ottawa and helping to build Ottawa as an agri-tourism and culinary destination, establishing the Start-Up Farm Program and OttawaKitchen.ca to incubate new farm and food businesses, establishing the Community Food Hub to decrease the cost of food purchases for agencies serving food to low-income residents, facilitating policy changes to allow more local food production on urban and NCC lands, establishing the Ottawa Food Policy Council…. some examples of long-term change a food systems approach brings.
What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?
– That every child in all four School Boards visits a farm, is able to cook 5 great meals for themselves, gardens at the school, and has access to good food throughout the day to enable good learning (Keep an eye in early 2018 for the new Ottawa School Food Network’s program offerings).
– That the New Roots project just started in 2017 grows and supports many New Canadians with agrarian backgrounds to connect to gardens and farmland in the Ottawa area.
– That we strengthen a Food Community in Ottawa that supports every single neighbourhood having food skills workshops, community gardens, emergency food provision with good food, and places to eat, learn and act together.