Food for thought

Range of poli­cies sought to im­prove food se­cu­rity in P.E.I.

Journal Pioneer - - THE ISLAND - BY JIM DAY

An abun­dance of food is pro­duced on land across Prince Ed­ward Is­land while con­sid­er­able nour­ish­ing ed­i­bles are hauled from the waters sur­round­ing the prov­ince.

Yet many Is­lan­ders lack ad­e­quate qual­ity and quan­tity of food in their daily con­sump­tion.

The most re­cent num­bers from Statis­tics Canada shows just over 15 per cent of house­holds in P.E.I. ex­pe­ri­ence some de­gree of food in­se­cu­rity. Ann Wheat­ley of the P.E.I. Food Se­cu­rity Net­work be­lieves many are shocked to learn just how many Is­lan­ders reg­u­larly go with­out a good meal.

“That one in four or five chil­dren is liv­ing in a house­hold af­fected by food in­se­cu­rity is ter­ri­ble,” she says. “I mean we are sup­pos­edly Canada’s Food Is­land. So I think peo­ple re­ally want to see that change.” Wheat­ley took part in a food sum­mit in Char­lot­te­town last week that looked to share ideas and de­velop projects to move food se­cu­rity ini­tia­tives for­ward.

She was pleased with a turnout con­sist­ing of a broad ar­ray of peo­ple with dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests in the food sys­tem. There were farm­ers, fish­er­men, ed­u­ca­tors, di­eti­cians, gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees and com­mu­nity vol­un­teers, among oth­ers. Wheat­ley says im­prov­ing the level of food se­cu­rity is a com­plex is­sue that in­volves many play­ers.

Poli­cies need to be de­vel­oped in a host of ar­eas - so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and agri­cul­tural, to name a few - to truly make in­roads.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment ex­plor­ing a na­tional food pol­icy, the prov­ince voic­ing in­ter­est in a lo­cal food act and the P.E.I. Home and School Fed­er­a­tion en­dors­ing a uni­ver­sal nu­tri­tion pro­gram are among the move­ments that of­fer Wheat­ley cause for op­ti­mism.

“Our goal as the Food Se­cu­rity Net­work has al­ways been to get peo­ple in­volved, to sort of cre­ate more of an aware­ness of what our food sys­tem looks like, what some of the chal­lenges are, what a healthy food sys­tem could look like and kind of work to­wards de­vel­op­ing some pol­icy change,” she says.

“Peo­ple are think­ing se­ri­ously about it.” Wheat­ley adds there is a greater aware­ness for the need to de­velop a strong, lo­cal food sys­tem in Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

“We are way too re­liant on im­ported food,” she ob­serves. “There is a real en­vi­ron­men­tal cost to that...it comes from a long dis­tance. It’s been pro­duced in ways that are not very good for the en­vi­ron­ment.”

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