Thompson Rivers University

TRU highlights food security programs for ag minister

April 7, 2022

Touring the TRU culinary kitchen during a break from a conference are (L to R): Retail Meat Processing Instructor Corey Davison, BC Agriculture and Food Minister Lana Popham, Small Scale Meat Producers Association (SSMPA) President Tristan Banwell and SSMPA Vice-President Julia Smith.

As a major employer, educational institution and generator of research, TRU is making a substantial contribution to food sustainability, production, self-sufficiency and, ultimately, food security in the BC Interior.

In late March, when BC Minister of Agriculture and Food Lana Popham visited TRU to speak at the Agriculture and Food Co-op Conference, she also discovered that the university is making a difference in local food production through initiatives in Culinary Arts, Retail Meat Cutting and Sustainable Ranching programs.

“Faculty in the Culinary Arts and the Retail Meat program are loud and visible advocates for local, sustainable and fresh. They have played a significant role in making local producers and products more accessible and thereby improving secure and sustainable supply chains,” says Doug Booth, dean of the Faculty of Adventure, Culinary Arts and Tourism.

“Faculty have supported, and continue to support, a number of initiatives on this front including work with the Kamloops Food Policy Council to promote food and agriculture as an economic driver in Kamloops and to increase local food processing and distribution, and the Farm2Chefs program.

“The latter, which has been operating since 2010, has been instrumental in promoting and accessing local foods and ensuring their use by local restaurants as well as the Culinary Arts and Retail Meat program. Indeed, awareness of food and understanding of where food comes from has never been stronger and is increasing the demand for local product to the extent that many small producers are at capacity; some are overwhelmed.”

The Faculty of Science offers the Applied Sustainable Ranching program that prepares students to build and manage resilient ranching operations and agricultural businesses. Faculty conducting research into sustainability include Dr. John Church (Regional Innovation Chair in Cattle Industry Sustainability) and Dr. Lauchlan Fraser (Industrial Research Chair in Ecosystem Reclamation).

Church is leading a multidisciplinary research team to develop innovative practices and technologies that will increase the sustainability and enhancement of the cattle and bison industry, while Fraser is investigating solid waste disposal and range land reclamation.

Safe and sustainable food practices

The efforts of Retail Meat Processing Instructor and Program Co-ordinator Corey Davison were spotlighted during the minister’s visit. Davison, who is vice-president of Canadian Professional Meat Cutters Association, is involved in developing and promoting safe meat processing practices which are critical to the health of Canadians and to economic sustainability.

He has established numerous collaborations in this area, including with Interior Health (to produce a food safety plan for fermented sausage), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (to develop a curriculum in fermented dry cured meats in accordance with the agency’s food safety guidelines) and Work Safe BC (to produce inspection report guidelines for safety in meat processing operations).

His work on food safety is positioning TRU’s Culinary Arts and Retail Meat program as leaders in food sustainability in BC and Canada. While training provided by TRU does not drive the food or meat industries, program faculty and students are key players in supporting these industries and actively assisting them to expand in a safe and sustainable manner as well as to excel.

Culinary Arts anticipates creating a regional farm-to-table training lab as an innovative approach to expanding opportunities and access to training for the community. It would enable access to training for small producers, especially in food safety and food chain sustainability.

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