A deep dive into Revelstoke’s food resiliency: Three ways to help food security

In response to climate crisis effects on the community, we take a deep dive into Revelstoke's food security in an interview with Kelsey Gasparini from the Local Food Initiative to find out how we can prepare ourselves as a community.

An interview with Kelsey Gasparini. Photo: Nora Hughes

Revelstoke has seen some ups and downs over the last few years, with headlines marred by topics of the pandemic, heat waves, wildfires, gas prices, worker shortages, and supply chain interruptions — residents have had to hold on tight. It feels as though Revelstokians are consistently trading one crisis for another. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the world’s rapid fire of events, I took a look at my life to see where I could mitigate the helpless sensation that washes over me every time the 2020s throw another curve ball. I decided that one less thing people should worry about is food — everyone deserves to eat and know where their next meal is coming from without added grief.

In November of 2021, I was working at a cafe in Revelstoke part-time. Right around that time, the atmospheric river over B.C. caused major flooding, disrupting supply chains and causing extensive damage. Places all over B.C. felt the effects of the natural disaster. The cafe had to shut down for a few days because milk wasn’t available – without milk, coffee shops can’t provide their primary service. 

Even more alarming was the complete and utter emptiness of the grocery stores. Every single morsel of fresh produce, aside from lemons and limes, had been swiped. With major roads destroyed in the flooding, food wasn’t making it to Revelstoke.

Photo from November 17, 2021. Photo: Nora Hughes
Photo from November 17, 2021. Photo: Nora Hughes

For a brief time period, it felt as though our supply chains completely collapsed. 

Fortunately, solutions were quickly put in place to rectify the situation in many communities, but the feeling of helplessness lingered. 

This is the second instance in my lifetime that I’ve seen grocery stores ransacked, and both instances were within the past two years.

How could everything fall apart so quickly? What’s to stop future wildfires, floods and other detrimental effects of climate change from rendering us stranded again? How can the community and myself be better prepared for these situations?

Local groceries stores chose not to comment on how they’re preparing for future situations, so I turned to the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative (LFI) for answers. 

An interview with LFI’s Kelsey Gasparini

“Food resiliency is the idea of how prepared we are to deal with natural disasters. The idea of what we’re gonna do when it happens and how quickly we can recover from it,” says executive director of the LFI, Kelsey Gasparini.

Kelsey Gasparini – Executive Director & RVAC Community Garden Coordinator, pictured at the RVAC community garden location. Photo: Nora Hughes

The LFI believes in a resilient local food system that empowers this idea of food security. They provide a platform for local producers by hosting a weekly farmers market in the spring, summer, and fall and run community gardens at three locations in the city. 

“A big part about food security is making sure your entire community is secure in their food system,” Gasparini says. “[It’s about] how people can move beyond [one person] eating locally 50% of the time, [and another person] eating locally 0% of the time, and coming together to figure out how more of the community can all be eating locally 25% of the time.”

My conversation with Kelsey made the answers seem clear as day — the solution to questions lies within our community. We need to take the anger and frustration of the past two years and turn it into action that will fortify our abilities to be prepared for the next twist of fate. However, Kelsey reminds me that it is never that simple. 

“We don’t need one person doing it really well,” she tells me in regards to building food security. “We need a bunch of people doing it imperfectly.”

Watch the full video interview here:

Three ways we can be resilient

1: Support local.

You’ve probably heard it more times than you can count, but supporting local producers helps boost community food security immensely. Here in Revelstoke, the local food producer scene is developing and can be seen on display at the LFI Market Saturday mornings. 

“I think that if you looked at it ten years ago, our food resiliency has expanded significantly since then,” Gasparini says. She’s seen our farming community have a big jump in diversity of farms. Farms such as First Light Farm, Terra Firma, and Refuge Farm are staples at the Saturday markets, but other producers are emerging that add to Revelstoke’s food resiliency too.

Businesses such as Flourish Bakery, which sources local ingredients when possible and expands Revelstoke’s gluten and dairy-free options, is an example of a producer that adds to the community’s food resilience. The same goes for Revelstoke Mushroom Co., cultivating gourmet mushrooms in their local facility. 

Gasparini says that the percentage of local foods in our grocery stores is very minimal.

“The more we learn to rely on those (producers) and the more we learn to use those people, really will determine our food resilience,” Gasparini says. “Also, the way that we support those people is a big part of it. If all of a sudden all of the other food chains break down and we have to depend on those people, have we prepared them enough for that?” 

2: Eat in season.

“Eating in season is a huge part of it all and figuring out how to keep those foods good and preserving them for a longer time is a huge part of it,” says Gasparini. 

Eating in season is huge. 

When it comes to consumerism, food products don’t have to travel as far to get to you if you’re eating what’s in season in your region. Sometimes, eating in season is reflected in the price of produce too. The price of bananas is going to be dramatically different than the price of cherries that are being grown and transported from within B.C. Gasparini says right now, in July and August, she’s eating produce from her garden and from the market, including lettuce, beets, chard, peas and many more. 

If you’re ready for some commitment, joining a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) share is another way to ensure you’re eating in season and supporting locals at the same time, contributing to Revelstoke’s food security and setting our local growers up for success.

A full CSA share at Terra Firma Farm in Revelstoke costs $500 and delivers 18 weeks of veggies, from June 15 until October 12. CSA share pick-up is once a week, and full share members can pick a selection of nine different vegetables and herbs — and they’re not small bundles.

A full share is intended for families and vegetarians that are more likely to consume all of that produce. A small share costs $375 and allows members to pick out six different items per week.

Gasparini says that supporting our growers ensures the food security of our town, “moving towards, making sure that our farmers have the support that they need, the land that they need, and making sure they have places to farm for us,” she says. 

3: Get growing!

Sometimes markets and buying local produce off of the shelves can have a price tag that may not align with a budget in Revelstoke. The LFI’s advice is to get on the growing train.

 There are lots of ways to harvest your own fruits and vegetables that will help save money and cut down on the cost of living. Revelstoke’s climate is ideal for foraging, the act of seeking out natural resources. In the summertime, berries are abundant in Revelstoke’s glades, including wild strawberries, raspberries, saskatoon berries, blueberries, huckleberries, and red currant berries.

Blueberries grown at outside of the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. Photo: Nora Hughes

Many of these plants double as garden rockstars. Gasparini says raspberry plants are extremely resilient and will bounce back year after year in your garden. The plants in the LFI’s community garden, located at the Revelstoke Visual Art Centre, produce loads of fruit that Gasparini says are great for freezing and eating all winter long. 

Gasparini says starting a garden isn’t always easy, but it can be extremely rewarding. Some of the easiest foods to grow here are lettuces, kale, chard, peas and beans, spinach, radishes, and all of the berries mentioned above. 

Gasparini’s best advice to people looking to grow their own food is to “plant what you like to eat.”

“It’s my number one advice to people, plant what you like to grow,” Gasparini says. “Keep it simple. It’s not that hard, and there are not that many things to think about when you’re growing a garden plot at your own house, don’t over-complicate it. Think about things you love to eat and plant those things and enjoy those things.”

Join a community garden

The LFI has community gardens in three different locations in Revelstoke. The Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre is home to one in addition to a garden downtown and on Track Street. 

Gasparini says it’s beyond easy to join and will always find a spot for those interested. She says the bottom line is that it’s a fun time.

Berry bushes that are part of LFI’s community garden located at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. Photo: Nora Hughes

Revelstoke’s community gardens are accessible to everyone, Gasparini says, regardless of price point. 

“Everyone deserves to eat, everyone deserves to eat good nutritious, delicious food. And that good nutritious, delicious, nutritious food comes right out of local gardens,” she says.”It’s important to realize that it’s not accessible to everyone because of the price point, but if you come to a place like this, we try to make it as accessible as we possibly can.”

Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.