MINDEMOYA—The annual general meeting for the Manitoulin Community Food Network (MCFN) was held December 3 at the council chambers in Mindemoya. Organization chairperson Maja Mielonen welcomed participants and began the meeting by noting the various guest speakers the organization welcomed including Brian Bell, representing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and speaking about best practices, Linda Belton with a talk titled ‘Kids Can Grow Again’ and John McNaughton. Mr. McNaughton’s talk focussed on alternative energy and the growing of switch grass, which could qualify for alternative energy pilot project funding. Heather Thoma, a member of MCFN, was also a guest speaker with a talk on the Good Food Box.
“We have very interesting speakers,” Ms. Mielonen said, “and there is a lot of work that could be done.”
An issue that reared its head once again at the network’s meeting was the spraying of the herbicide Garlon on the Island by Ontario Hydro which, as Ms. Mielonen explained, supersedes the bylaws of the municipalities. Ms. Mielonen agreed to ask Central Manitoulin staff about Garlon bylaws while Ms. Thoma said she would speak to Northeast Town and Assiginack municipal staff. It was pointed out that Garlon was sprayed near Big Lake even though this product is not to be used near water and is believed to be toxic to aquatic organisms. Food network members agreed that their organization should collaborate with others to stop the spraying. “Let’s make the Island Garlon free,” member Pam Jackson said, while Ms. Mielonen said she thought that this might require a legislative change to see this happen. Ms. Thoma responded to this by saying, “If we have Mike Mantha (MPP) on side…” MCFN members agreed that there would have to be a lot of support to fight this particular battle with the township and organizations such as Manitoulin Streams lending support. “The Nature Club would probably be on board,” added member Nancy McDermid. This organization has been in existence for over 20 years on Manitoulin and, among other things, is responsible for the bird counts held every year.
The AGM also saw a lengthy discussion regarding the Island’s abattoir and how this association’s members can be active members and support the abattoir. It was decided that Guy Nielon would attend the next meeting on behalf of MCFN as a voting member.
Ms. Thoma spoke at the meeting and gave a run-down on two conferences she had attended and spoke at regarding food concerns. She told those in attendance that the Local Food Act, which had just been passed at the provincial level, is supportive at the major producers level rather than small producers. She also talked about school programs and allowed that there is funding from the province to support food distribution such as Eat Local Sudbury. The Good Food Box program on Manitoulin is still in the development stages but will be at 70 to 80 boxes per month when fully established with Ms. Thoma being the go-to person for information or membership.
It was announced at the meeting that the screening of the film ‘This is My Garden’ will take place at Manitoulin Secondary School on January 22 at 7 pm. This project took place on a Northern Manitoba First Nation with gardens in people’s backyards. MCFN is looking at starting up a pilot project about this on Manitoulin. There isn’t a cost to attend the screening, but donations are gladly accepted.
The meeting also saw a discussion about the food policy meeting which was held December 10 at the Aundeck Omni Kaning community centre. The project is spearheaded by Mary Pheasant, the Healthy Food Policy Project coordinator. The guest speaker will be Andrew Stitch Manitowabi, the organizer of the Wikwemikong whitefish festival.
Elections took place towards the meeting’s end with Heather Thoma standing as chairperson, Valerie McIntyre as secretary and Pam Jackson as treasurer.
The Healthy Eating Guidelines toolkit was presented at the meeting. This is for use for aboriginal and non-aboriginal organizations which are interested in promoting healthy eating in the workplace and at organization-led events. The toolkit is produced by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Noojmowin Teg Health Centre (705-368-2182 or www.noojmowin-teg.ca).
Everyone is encouraged to attend the next meeting of the Manitoulin Community Food Network. For more information, call Heather Thoma at 705-368-0460.