Just as I was mulling over whether or not I would be attending this year’s Feast of Fields an interesting situation arose. It seems that The Read Apron has withdrawn from the event, which sees local farmers paired with local chefs to create unique, local and organic dishes. Their reason for withdrawing? The new title sponsor of the event this year is Loblaws. For some more background on the event visit the event website and for more information on The Red Apron’s decision to no longer participate see this great article by Ottawa Magazine.

Basically it boils down to an event that promotes local food culture being sponsored by what some feel is the reason that this culture is endangered. Where have we heard this before? Oh right… everywhere. McDonald’s sponsored the Olympics. In fact they had the athletes going around saying how often they ate at McDonald’s and how much they loved Coke. While everyone is entitled to their favorite guilty pleasure every now and then – I find it hard to believe that the best athletes in the world have a diet that revolves around McFood.

This is a topic that speaks right to the heart of me – as a food lover and a marketing major. I’m torn – I know that events need sponsorship to break even, and personally I don’t want to make up the difference in funds with increased ticket prices. On the other hand I hate wading through marketing mumbo-jumbo to get to the truth of the what, where and how of my food. I hate when fast food restaurants market to children, but I love when local events have enough money to continue putting on such great affairs for our community.

The fact is that sponsorship of this kind is everywhere… and sadly I have to admit when I went to the Feast of Fields website to look into buying tickets I didn’t even blink at the Loblaws logo that is right on the main page. I didn’t notice – in fact… I kind of expected something like that to be there. Is that wrong? Maybe. Should the event have looked into grants or government funding before approaching the superstore?? Perhaps… hey, maybe they did.

In the end it appears that yet another event has sold it’s soul to corporate food marketers – but have some sympathy… great events don’t come cheap. And those that cost money in the end, don’t come back year after year. I’m still deciding if I will be attending, but my decision will have nothing to do who sponsors the event.

What do you think? Is this a necessary evil that we are just going to have to live with, or is there a different way to do business?

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