Meet Our Youth Members: Kaylen Fredrickson
Kaylen happened upon the exciting area of food while completing her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia. She was disillusioned with the lack of variety in the biochemistry program she began in, so she transferred to the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, whose core curriculum was about food security and food issues. Kaylen studied the social determinants of health, food security and international nutrition. Her hands-on introduction to this area was a collaborative project with students from UBC and a Rwandan university to conduct a nutritional and food security assessment in Rwanda.
Ever since, Kaylen has been passionate about integrating food issues into her work. In her Masters of Public Health at the University of Toronto, she completed a research project on Canada’s food discourses. Kaylen then joined the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council (TYFPC) in August, 2013. I sat down with Kaylen to discuss her food work, what she is doing at the TYFPC, and how she dreams of integrating her passion for food into her work in the non-profit sector in combating violence against women.
Why did you join the TYFPC?
When I saw the call-out for committee members I was finished my degree and it looked like a great opportunity to stay connected with peers that were interested in research and issues that would engage me in what’s happening in the city.
What does food mean to you?
In my personal life, food means celebration. I engage with people through meeting for food, cooking for them, sharing new foods, having potlucks, and that kind of thing. Food is a social interaction for me. At a professional level, food is a way to nurture communities. It is essential for nutrition and your body, and being able to live your life. Growing food, preparing food, and getting together with people is a way to hold onto your culture, share your culture, and belong to a community.
Tell me about your research on Canada’s National Food discourses.
I was a research assistant for Professor Sarah Wakefield and worked with her to review Canada’s national food security discourses and policies, including Canada’s response to the World Food Summit in 1996.
For my own research, I analyzed media coverage that followed the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to Canada in May 2012. The Special Rapporteur made suggestions about how we should talk about food: as a human right, and as related to food access, poverty and our minimum wage. I explored how the Federal government and the public responded to what the Special Rapporteur was saying, and analyzed how these discourses aligned with Canadian policies (or lack thereof). I am still working on this project and am hoping to get it published.
How does your current work intersect with food or food justice?
I currently work in the violence against women non-profit sector, designing courses on violence against women that will prepare people who don’t have this training to be a resource for women experiencing abuse. I am interested in how violence and body image intersect with food, and women’s relationships with food. For example, there is a lot of intersection between food security and women who live in the shelter system.
I would like to be able to integrate this into my work, and I am working towards this.
I am hoping to explore these intersections further in an upcoming TYFPC community meeting being planned.
What are you working on with the TYFPC?
I am the co-lead of the advocacy committee which is working on two major projects right now.
One is an advocacy toolkit, a collaboration between the TYFPC and Food Forward, being led by Anne Siu, the other co-lead of the Advocacy committee.
The other is the municipal election project that I have been working on. We foresee three stages to this project: to gather the food issues that youth are interested in, to get the opinions of candidates on these issues, and to present candidate views back to the community to help inform their election decisions. I hope to have this information published online, in an interactive format.
We also want to find out who are allies are, and what other groups are already, or would be, interested in working on this kind of project so that the information we gather is as useful as it can be. We want councillors to see how many groups are committed to food issues.
What is your biggest accomplishment related to food?
It was actually growing a balcony garden. I studied food for three or four years, but had never grown anything. I felt really self-conscious about it, but since I’ve come out about it, it seems it’s actually not that uncommon!
Seeing my seedlings grow really brought home a lot of the academic work that I studied around peoples’ connection to food. I always thought about connection in terms of eating, but when I started growing, it made me more appreciative of the whole food system. Growing food did more for me than years of studying food academically.
What issues are you most excited about moving forward with the TYFPC?
I’m really excited about the upcoming community meeting in June that I am working on. We will be talking about the intersection of food, mental health, body image, and identity (we are still in the brainstorming stage). The TYFPC is a great place to bring what you are interested in and propose it to a group of like-minded individuals who are supportive of exploring new topics!
How can people get involved?
Our TYFPC community meetings are bi-monthy on the first Monday of the month. The next meeting is on April 7th, and we will be talking about how to get involved in the municipal election project and next steps.
You can also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are having discussion meetings specifically to talk about this project.