Niagara is aiming to do what makes sense with food issues – work at them harmoniously: strategize to support local food and farmers, while at the same time, combat food insecurity, connecting that local food to those who especially need it.
The Right to Local Food was the theme of a forum held by the South Niagara Chapter of the Council of Canadians at the Welland Community Wellness Centre on June 5, during Local Food Week.
The forum aimed to introduce Niagara’s proposed “Right to Local Food”, to present new approaches to food and agricultural policy, and to bring together Niagara’s food and farm community to investigate ways to implement the Local Food Act. Through these discussions, they hope to improve the local agriculture-based economy while also addressing food insecurity.
The morning of dialogue and collaboration involved a number of local food-related organizations: agencies, services, food producers and distributors, consumers, business and government. The overall purpose? To get people excited and interested in supporting local food.
Attendees heard from an assortment of speakers.
Fiona McMurran spoke of food systems and food-related issues, and the Right to Food; Welland MP Malcolm Allen, Official Opposition Agriculture and Agri-Food Critic, discussed the NDP Pan-Canadian Food Strategy; Jaya James with OMAFRA spoke about Ontario’s Local Food Act; Bill Hodgson, Chair of the Niagara Region Agricultural Policy and Action Committee, and Regional Councillor for Lincoln, discussed Niagara Region’s Agri-Food Strategy and strategies to implement the Local Food Act; and Donna Cridland wrapped things up on the Right to Local Food before lunch and engaging roundtable discussions.
The Council of Canadians, said Fiona McMurran in this Welland Tribune article, often feels there is a disconnect between the people fighting for food justice and the people growing the food. McMurran said that for Niagara in particular, where the soil allows for plenty of varied produce to be grown, it’s important to grow that produce and keep it local. “Here in Niagara we’re importing produce that we grow here,” McMurran said.
“There is good momentum in Niagara on the significance of local food and strong food systems – and now food policy,” Donna Cridland told us. “The Council of Canadians South Niagara Chapter was very pleased that it could be part of Niagara’s Local Food conversation.”
The Niagara Region website states that 9.9% of Niagara households are food insecure. The Council wants to find a food strategy that will work toward making local food more accessible to those who may have a difficult time economically.
Bill Hodgson, who is also Vice Chair of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, grew up on a farm that he eventually bought from his parents; he believes education and income distribution are an issue of concern.
The South Niagara Chapter of the Council of Canadians was formed in January 2009. With a mandate committed to the local food movement, they work to see Niagara “become a centre for sustainable food production.”