By Arthur Connor

Issues of local food security and sustainability have come into focus recently as part of an informal dialogue session known as The Conversation. Since mid-September, a group of locals from disparate political and ideological backgrounds have come together to discuss such varied topics as Thomas Jefferson and the banking crisis.

More recently, they have concentrated on the production, provision and distribution of food for the Idyllwild community and allied areas — largely as the result of the group’s viewing of the documentary film “Food, Inc.” Though this film is generally regarded as an indictment of major food corporations and the fast-food industry in particular, it also can be the basis for serious discussions into the hows, whys and wherefores of the various day-to-day processes involved in the world of production and consumption of foodstuffs.

With the increase in the availability of potentially harmful food products, such as genetically engineered fruits and vegetables, as well as the presence of non- or anti-nutritional food additives, the necessity of food awareness becomes proportionally enlarged.

This type of education is further emphasized in the corresponding quest for sources for food and drink. We seek to know the existence of not only out-of-town but also far-off distributors who make possible the availability of watermelons in December and butternut squash in June, not to mention bottled water from Italy and New Zealand.

Principally The Conversation group has focused on the location of sources both on and off the Hill. Currently, we have four main food outlets — the 20-odd restaurant venues — plus the delivery mechanisms (like Sysco and US Foods). These are starters for an appreciation of the situation’s dimensional magnitude and perspective.

Various means have been put in place to determine the costs of actual food production and their application to real-time problems of distribution. There was an emphasis on providing food in its most nutritious and inexpensive forms.

In this way, the discussion has gone forward to the sustainable and available goal of the potential establishment of a “food oasis” for the immediate Idyllwild area, in contrast to the growing number of food deserts in Southern California.

The next two scheduled meetings of The Conversation will continue the discussion of the provision of food and drink. Further community input at such times is most definitely solicited.

The group convenes at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church’s center, 6 p.m., Wednesday evenings, Jan. 11 and 25. Both are preceded by a pot-luck dinner.

The author wishes to thank Don Giger and Barnaby Finch, in addition to Mark Yardas, for their advice and input regarding this article.