N.L. needs ben­e­fits of more lo­cal food: premier

Food First NL ses­sion in C.B.S.; no­tice from St. John’s on an­nual food drive

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LOCAL - Telegram@thetele­gram.com

Premier Dwight Ball was preach­ing to the choir Tues­day morn­ing, telling par­tic­i­pants at a gather­ing on food se­cu­rity of the need to in­crease food pro­duc­tion in the province.

Lo­cal pro­duc­tion is one as­pect of the larger topic. The premier touched on some oth­ers, but em­pha­sized a de­sire to see New­found­land and Labrador pro­duce more of its own food.

“Just to think that … in the ’30s we were self-suf­fi­cient. We could grow enough veg­eta­bles to feed our­selves,” he said. “And yet in 2017 we can only do that with 10 per cent.”

He said food ed­u­ca­tion, dis­cus­sions on food se­cu­rity, im­proved pro­duc­tion and re­duc­ing the cost of fresh pro­duce all has a health and eco­nomic ben­e­fit and is part of the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to re­duc­ing the province’s obe­sity rates.

“Why can we not put lo­cally grown food within our own in­sti­tu­tions?” he asked, mak­ing a joke about hos­pi­tal food.

The speech at the Manuels River In­ter­pre­ta­tion Cen­tre launched the Food First NL provin­cial plan­ning fo­rum on food se­cu­rity, an ex­ten­sion of the Ev­ery­body Eats ini­tia­tive. Ball con­grat­u­lated the group on its work on food se­cu­rity to date.

Ev­ery­body Eats be­gan with about two years of dis­cus­sions, con­sul­ta­tions around the province and an in-depth dis­cus­sion pa­per spe­cific to food se­cu­rity in New­found­land and Labrador in 2015.

Hav­ing heard from more than 900 par­tic­i­pants, the part­ners in Ev­ery­body Eats — gath­ered by Food First NL — are now work­ing on more rec­om­men­da­tions for con­crete, prac­ti­cal, im­me­di­ate ways for New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans to be­come more food se­cure.

Wild food and farm­ing

Along with the premier, the fo­rum was kicked off with re­marks from Car­lene Pal­liser of Rigo­let and Ian Froude, a farmer and coun­cil­lor with the City of St. John’s.

Pal­liser spoke about the chal­lenges of get­ting ac­cess to af­ford­able, fresh food, par­tic­u­larly on the coast of Labrador. In­creas­ingly, she said, ac­cess to coun­try foods has been chal­lenged.

She also spoke about ex­ist­ing con­cerns, in­clud­ing the ris­ing cost of fuel and am­mu­ni­tion, and fu­ture re­stric­tions tied to methylmer­cury re­sult­ing from the Muskrat Falls hy­dro­elec­tric pro­ject.

“I al­ways felt that just be­cause we live in iso­la­tion doesn’t mean we should be de­prived of good qual­ity and va­ri­ety of food,” Pal­liser said.

Froude spoke about the po­ten­tial in mi­cro­farms and po­ten­tial new ap­proaches, chal­leng­ing the group to look be­yond com­mu­nity gar­dens.

Get­ting in­volved

Apart from in­di­vid­ual ac­tions you might take, Food First NL is wel­com­ing any­one in­ter­ested in build­ing rec­om­men­da­tions be­yond to­day.

Food First NL will hold its an­nual gen­eral meet­ing on Dec. 5. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is pro­mot­ing the meet­ing as the per­fect place and time for any­one in­ter­ested in im­prov­ing food se­cu­rity to be­come more in­volved.

The meet­ing is at The Lan­tern, 35 Barnes Rd. in St. John’s at 1:30 p.m. NLT, but there will be the op­tion to take part through tele­con­fer­ence. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able by email­ing info@food­firstnl.ca.

FILE PHOTO

Premier Dwight Ball wants to see New­found­land and Labrador pro­duce more of its own food. He made the com­ments Tues­day dur­ing a speech at the Food First NL provin­cial plan­ning fo­rum on food se­cu­rity.

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