How often do you think about where your food comes from? Your answer may depend on what part of the province you call home.
According to the panelists of an upcoming Harris Centre public policy forum, “What’s for dinner? Building a healthy, reliable food supply for Newfoundland and Labrador,” this province faces significant challenges when it comes to ensuring all citizens have access to healthy and affordable food.
The forum’s keynote speaker, Kevin Morgan, has an impressive knowledge of both the day-to-day and the regulatory aspects of food security. As a professor of European Regional Development at Cardiff University in Wales, Kevin Morgan has collaborated with world leaders at the highest level, including members of the U.K. government and the United Nations. While global experts like Prof. Morgan identify food security as a significant world challenge, you don’t need to look outside this province to find knowledgeable individuals working to strengthen food systems from farm to fork, here at home.
Memorial University PhD student and panellist Kristen Lowitt is currently researching food security issues in the Bonne Bay region, with a particular focus on the role of fish in household food practices and dietary decisions.
As Ms. Lowitt explains, this province has “a high rate of income-related food insecurity and among the highest rates of many diet-related health problems in the country.”
Ms. Lowitt believes encouraging people to think about where their food comes from is a basic first step towards improving the situation in this province. “Discussions about food security encourage people to think critically about food and our food system, and work collectively towards a more vibrant, community-based food system and economy,” she says.
Kristie Jameson, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Food Security Network, agrees.
“We rely greatly on outside food sources, producing only 10 per cent of fresh vegetables, meaning we import 90 per cent. It is imperative that we as a province begin thinking about food – where it comes from to how to grow it and how to cook it in a healthy way. We need to learn the basic food skills and pass these on for future generations.”
Ms. Jameson notes that more and more people seem to be taking the food security issue seriously.
“There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening across Newfoundland and Labrador. Community gardens, farmers' markets, community kitchens and bulk buying clubs are all popping up across the province.”
Food security-related initiatives have emerged in both rural and urban areas of the province, says Ms. Jameson.
“In St. John's, the local group Food Education Action St. John's (FEASt) is working to increase education, awareness, and action around food security issues, and the Burin Peninsula Environmental Reform Committee (BPERC) has been developing community gardens throughout the Burin Peninsula and striving to engage youth and schools in the process.”
Ms. Jameson’s advice to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?
“Strive to grow, catch, or harvest some of your own food, know where the food you purchase comes from and support local farmers, make homemade meals often and pass on this knowledge to your friends family and most importantly, your children.”
All members of the public are invited to attend the upcoming Memorial Presents public policy forum, “What’s for dinner? Building a healthy, reliable food supply for Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The event will take place in EN-2006, in the Engineering Building at Memorial University, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Admission is free and a reception will follow. Parking is available in lots 16 and 16A.
The forum will also be webcast live at www.mun.ca/harriscentre during the event for those who are unable to make it in person.