Local Love Blog Series – Bow Valley Food Alliance

Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series! This week is particularly exciting because we are featuring our first non-profit organization on the Local Love Blog Series! 

Sophie Welsh is the Community Kinships and Communications Coordinator at the Bow Valley Food Alliance (BVFA). 

The BVFA is a non-profit dedicated to making local food systems healthy, socially just, diverse, and accessible to all. From Morley to Lake Louise, the team at BVFA help address food issues and insecurity, targeting local Bow Valley residents with a passion for food. 

Sophie, and her colleague Michelle, joined BVFA in the summer of 2021. 

They are committed to connecting people, coordinating efforts, advocating for change, educating, and inspiring action in the local community. They are actively challenging the status quo that food will always be expensive and limited in the Bow Valley. 

The BVFA is a resource hub for local residents to find relevant and up-to-date information!

Sophie and the BVFA team understand that finding information on food resources in the Bow Valley has not always been easy or accessible, so they can connect people to food support systems if they need help. The BVFA has also worked with the University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba to conduct research focused on learning more about the Bow Valley’s food system’s strengths and weaknesses. The BVFA also provides grants and helps local organizations with their own grant writing and applications to host events and services for the Bow Valley community. 

Sophie’s favourite part of working with the BVFA is getting to work with the community. 

She knows how difficult it can be to live in the Bow Valley with the high cost of living and is passionate about the work she does with the BVFA to work with locals in developing a food system that is more affordable and socially just. No one should have to struggle with choosing between paying their rent or buying their groceries. 

She also loves the passionate locals in the Bow Valley! 

She saw this first-hand throughout the pandemic when volunteers and local businesses all stepped up to provide food support to food-insecure community members. 

The BVFA was established in 2016 and registered officially as a non-profit in 2020.

After a Banff Canmore Community Foundation meeting that explored the reasons behind grant applications for food programs increasing but no significant impact was being made on improving food insecurity, the idea for the BVFA was born. By 2018, through the hard work of the Town of Banff Community Development staff, the BVFA had an informal membership of 50 people who worked together to build the BVFA framework to work on strategies focused on increasing access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for the community. Since registering as a non-profit in Nov 2020, the BVFA now has a working board of 7 individuals. 

The BVFA has big goals to accomplish! 

The BVFA wants to move beyond thinking about food issues in the Bow Valley through the lens of emergency food support alone. While the support and existence of food banks are integral to working towards their goals, the BVFA wants to move towards a concept of food sovereignty. This recognizes food as a right rather than a commodity and understands hunger as a problem of food governance, unequal distribution, and injustice rather than simply lacking access or production.

Developed in 2018, the BVFA created the Bow Valley Food Charter to highlight the food movement in the community.  

The Bow Valley Food Charter acts as a framework outlining what local residents want to see their food system look like from growing, harvesting, eating, and disposing of food. The Charter has been signed by concerned individuals, the Town of Banff and Improvement District 9 to continue working on a positive Bow Valley food movement. 

Sophie is excited to start connecting with the community again in person!

The BVFA is grateful to have great support from funders like the Banff Canmore Community Foundation, the Canmore Rotary Club, Community Food Centres Canada, United Way, the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation, and the Calgary Community Foundation. They also have amazing partnerships with the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership, Improvement District 9, MD of Bighorn, Stoney Health Services, Town of Banff, Town of Canmore, and the Whyte Museum. Sophie is looking forward to hosting in-person events and connecting with BVFA funders, partners, and community members around food hopefully a reality in the not-too-far future. 

Until then, stay connected with the BVFA online, or through Instagram and Facebook to see what they are up to, including an exciting new project coming up with the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership (BVIP) and The Whyte Museum! Consider signing the Bow Valley Food Charter or sign-up to volunteer with the BVFA. 

Personally, I would like to thank Sophie, Michelle, and the entire Board of Directors for their important and incredible work towards creating a more sustainable, affordable, and accessible food system in the Bow Valley. 

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