Floods, tourists, and wildlife: Changing food systems in the Bow Valley?

Authors: Lauren Kepkiewicz*, University of Toronto
Topics: Food Systems, Mountain Environments, Canada
Keywords: mountain geographies; food systems; food studies; food movements; local food
Session Type: Paper
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How have major flooding, local food discourses, and tourism influenced mountain communities who believe they have limited capacity to grow and harvest food? Using community-based research methodologies, this paper examines the case of the Bow Valley, located in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. In 2013, flooding cut off food supplies to several Valley communities. While roads were quickly repaired, eight years later community members remain aware that they are not able to feed themselves without access to Calgary, the nearest urban center. This awareness has been sharpened with increased concerned about future climate change impacts, including more frequent and extreme flooding (Rooban, 2019). Community members are also aware that while they host world-class gastronomic events aimed at tourists (Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, 2017; 2019), Valley residents have struggled to keep grocery stores open in their communities (Ellis, 2011) and have seen food bank use drastically increase in recent years (VanDenBussche, 2016). A desire for greater self-sufficiency coupled with growing participation in local food movements has led Valley communities to co-design this research project, which seeks to better understand how they can create ecologically sustainable and socially just food systems that build local social and economic networks. Findings suggest that doing so will involve challenging ideas that Valley food systems must be designed for tourists rather than locals, addressing assumptions that food systems and wildlife cannot co-habitat along with corresponding bylaws that prohibit community food provisioning practices, and honouring treaties that seek renewal and restoration of Indigenous food systems.

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