Food matters, and its journey from the farm to the factory and eventually the fork is an important topic of discussion. Canada is currently without a comprehensive food policy, and we can see the evidence of the lack of a coordinated national food strategy everywhere: many farmers are struggling to make a living, there are serious food security issues in Aboriginal communities, and more than two million Canadians are at risk of going hungry.
The Government of Canada recently launched consultations with stakeholders and interested Canadians to develop a Food Policy for Canada. Groups and individuals who are interested in access to food, healthy and safe food, and the relationship between agriculture, the environment, and the economy are all being invited to participate in this process.
On June 16 I hosted a community town hall on agriculture in the Island Savings Centre, an event that drew an attendance of over 100 people. Even though this event was originally intended as a forum for my colleague Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who was unable to attend as the NDP’s Agriculture Critic, my staff and I were able to enlist the help of local farmers to form attendees into a series of working groups for ideas for the new national food policy.
Niki Strutynski from Tatlo Road Farm, a small-scale certified organic vegetable farm, Chris Groenendijk, the president of the Island Milk Producers Organization, and Amy Melmock, the manager of Economic Development Cowichan, were present to provide their views on the challenges facing farmers and what should be included in a Food Policy for Canada.
Guided by these presentations, audience participants worked together at their tables to provide their ideas on what the federal government should take note of or include in the development of a national food policy. My office has collected this direct feedback, and I am currently working on the draft of a report that will be submitted to the Minister of Agriculture. This report will be made publicly available through my website when it is finished in the coming month.
As many of you will know, agriculture and food security have always been important issues for me. I have long supported community-based and local agriculture, and as a two-year board member of Cowichan Green Community Society, I helped promote environmental sustainability and increased food security.
It is my hope that these community consultations will lead to the development of a national food policy that aims for a thriving agricultural sector and ensures that access to healthy and affordable food is a national priority.