The 8th Annual Laure Waridel Bursary worth $10,000 was awarded to Valérie Toupin-Dubé at the 2016 Équiterre member meetup. This money will enable Valérie to develop and distribute an educational kit, École-o-Champs, to raise awareness about sustainable food and farming in Quebec schools and other public institutions. Her goal? To give everyone access to healthy food and contribute significantly to food security.
The selection committee, composed of academics and ecologists, emphasized, once again, the high quality of the applications and candidates. Established in 2008, the Laure Waridel Bursary has funded many environmental and social research projects whose focus has included transportation, farming and green building—each one taking us a step closer to sustainable living.
A ROOTED PASSION FOR HEALTHY SUSTAINABLE FOOD
Valérie has been involved in the community for years and is passionate about sustainable food and local farming (short food supply chains). After travelling and working on farms in New Zealand and British Columbia, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with a specialisation in organic and agronomic agriculture at McGill University, on the MacDonald campus, where the Farm to school Mac Donald is located. Educational modules, including some that will be part of the educational kit Valerie will develop in the coming years, are already available online. As field manager and agri-food educator at the Macdonald Student Ecological Garden (MSEG), she managed to obtain farmland nearer the school for the student volunteers. The students supply CSA food baskets to 40 members—professors, technicians, students and a few families living in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue—as well as the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Saturday market and the McGill Farmer’s Market downtown as part of the McGill Feeding McGill project.
In 2013, Valérie created an educational module with her colleagues for the Farm-to-School Club, and in 2014, they developed a summer camp program. Some 50 children attended the first camp and 210 are expected in 2016. The project aims to engage and educate kids ages 6-12, teenage volunteers working in kitchens and gardens, and special needs youth about local farming, green practices and their food’s journey. Passionate, engaged students studying dietetics, nutrition, green farming (crop and animal), the environment and food security at the Macdonald Campus are involved in the project.
In 2015, Valerie implemented her project in a high school, establishing Cultiver la solidarité–le potager de l’école secondaire d’Oka [Cultivate solidarity—The Oka high school ecological vegetable garden project], with a Board composed of students from the school and two supervisors from the Macdonald Campus, who will help establish an ecological vegetable garden where the Cistercian Fathers once grew grapes.
In 2016, she took her passion for sustainable food and farming to another level, becoming the manager of Bread Basket Lac-Saint-Louis, an organization that works to improve access to healthy food, especially for those living below the poverty line in the South of the West Island.