On Sept. 13, 2017, more than 20 local businesses came together to share their passion for sustainable farming and food production with attendees from across Canada at the 8th annual Food for Thought event at Hotel Arts in Calgary.
Ticket-holders had the opportunity to talk to local business owners face-to-face while indulging in local goodies from Cococo Chocolatiers, Redwater Grille, Fiasco Gelato, True Buch Kombucha, and Eau Claire Distillery, among others.
Unlike other food events, no additional tickets were required once the attendees were inside. The $35 admission fee included unlimited samples of food and beverages from local restaurants and farms.
Speciality food shop, the Light Cellar, was a particularly busy vendor at the event.
“This is a real pro-biotic pickle,” said employee Denis Manzer as he handed out samples. “No vinegar added.”
The Light Cellar is a Calgary-based business that offers a range of foods, especially local, organic and naturally fermented items.
Manzer said that it’s easy to get caught up in the various diet trends these days, but he recommends keeping it simple with local, organic food.
“It’s the most nutrient dense, and it’s good for the environment,” said Manzer.
Attendees had the opportunity to learn how sustainable growing practices can affect human health, the environment, and the local economy.
“Sure, there are the food freebies, but people really want to talk. They are genuinely interested,” said Lauren Grevinski of Spud.ca.
Much more than a marketing tool for local businesses, Food for Thought brought local business owners and customers together so that conversations could take place.
Grevinksi said she had been looking forward to this event, a personal favourite, all year.
“Between the vendors and the clientele, it’s just a great networking event,” she said.
REAP (Respect for the Earth and All People) Business Association hosts the event each year in partnership with Hotel Arts.
REAP is a not-for-profit business association for Calgary-and-area owned businesses that strive to be environmentally responsible and community minded.
Food for Thought was a sold-out event this year, which meant it provided more than 300 meals to those in need through Mealshare.
“REAP’s team and I personally, received glowing feedback on Food for Thought from conference delegates throughout the two days of workshops following our event,” said president and founder of REAP, Stephanie Jackman.
This year, Food For Thought was part of EconoUs2017, an annual national conference for community economic development.
This was the first year that the conference took place in Calgary, which provided some new exposure for Food for Thought.
“My favourite part was, and always is, the people,” said REAP employee Centaine Tyler.
“Whether it’s meeting new vendors and learning about their practices, or catching up with the returning favourites…it’s so much fun.”
My favourite part was, and always is, the people. -Centaine Tyler
More than 400 people, with connections in business, government, and social enterprise, attended the EconoUs2017 conference from across Canada, so it was no surprise that Food for Thought hosted more business people and social entrepreneurs than in previous years.
“We saw an influx of people who are interested in REAP’s message rather than just in it for the food,” Tyler said.
“[The event] led to some interesting conversations about what’s being done in Calgary and across the country to support communities.”
Jackman believes that events like this will continue to inspire Calgarians and Canadians “to support more local food businesses, reduce waste, and increase access to healthy foods for everyone.”