What’s your recipe for a better food system?

On Sept. 28 the federal government, in association with Food Secure Canada (FSC), held a consultation with Sackville residents to aid in the development of their food policy recommendation report,  A Food Policy for Canada.

The consultation, titled “What’s Your Recipe for a Better Food System?,” was one of many organized across the country. The goal of the event was to propose federal policy changes.  Priorities for the policy are to improve the affordability, safety and nutritional quality of Canada’s food while also protecting Canada’s soil, water and air. Sackville community members touched on many topics, including organic farming, monoculture, genetic modification, agribusiness, pesticide use and food sovereignty. Kristen Lowitt, a lecturer at Mt. A, organized and hosted the event in the Manning Room. Sackville participants came from a variety of backgrounds including, but not limited to, students, local community members and representatives from the New Brunswick Food Security Network. To start, Lowitt gave an introductory presentation highlighting the steps that have already been taken in the development of A Food Policy for Canada.

After introductions, Lowitt led a roundtable discussion of seven key questions related to food policy.Much of the discussion focused on consumer responsibility and the struggles faced by everyday Canadians in choosing “good” food.

Jill MacIntyre is a fourth-year international relations major who believes strongly in the value of local food production. MacIntyre admitted that the event would face challenges, saying, “It’s hard in a country as large as Canada to develop a national food policy that’s actually comprehensive enough to help the average farmer or consumer.”

Over the course of the nearly two hours of discussion, participants voiced concern over local food availability, food prices and the methods used to produce food both nationally and abroad. Aspects of the food system, such as lack of transparency, proper labelling, food waste, food miles and climate change, were discussed at length, as well as potential political solutions.

Susan Kastuk-Ridlington, the owner of a home delivery service which provides frozen meals to southern New Brunswick and Amherst, NS, said, “I found it very interesting hearing some of the students speak about their knowledge of the farming community and the challenges of farmers, because they come from a farming background.” As a registered dietitian, Kastuk-Ridlington has experience in the food industry where she has had “the opportunity to learn that many people have challenges in finding healthy food.” These and other issues are what the new policy seeks to address.

Feedback and policy ideas from the Sackville event will be included in a summary report written by Tierra Stokes and Prof. Lowitt. This summary, along with reports from other engagements, will be compiled by the FSC into a comprehensive report of recommendations to the federal government. The new policy, to be drafted by early 2018, will be Canada’s first integrated national food policy.

Overall, MacIntyre is optimistic.  “I’m really interested to see how [Canada’s food policy] goes moving forward and I think community consultations are one way to ensure that all regional interests are represented,” she said.

Whether policy can change consumer attitudes is another matter: While exchanging views on consumer choice, one participant accurately noted that “When you’re hungry, you forget to be logical.”

Interested in learning more? Check out the FSC website at www.foodsecurecanada.org

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