Food  Strategy:

Key priorities related to Thunder Bay and Area food system.

 

Food Access

As someone who has spent a career working with families, youth and children the issue of food access is one that is I have seen unfortunately tackled daily. The provision of breakfast programs, lunch programs, and weekend food programs for children and youth in schools, and food banks in the community, though pleased that these supportive programs are available, are only band aid solutions to the systemic causes of food insecurity. The root causes of this food insecurity needs to be addressed. Thus, ensuring that everyone has regular access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food is a community responsibility. Moving UP Together means that next steps would coordinate the many excellent independent programs in our community so that no one falls through the cracks. It would also mean looking at creating innovative ways to ensure food access for all. Next steps also includes supporting community leaders who are able to provide education and learning opportunities to those identified as lacking food access so that they may begin a journey of creating food security for themselves and their families.

 

Forest and Fresh Water Foods

I support protecting and promoting forest and freshwater food systems. As you indicate in the food strategy document “both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples continue to depend on local forests and freshwater for food; and hunting, fishing and gathering remain an important part of northern culture” and “Aboriginal peoples still possess traditional ecological knowledge that enables them to live off the land.” Understanding this, you identify in the food strategy that “Nationally and provincially there is increased demand for forest and freshwater foods.” Thus , moving UP means supporting economic opportunities in the growth of forest and freshwater food systems while at the same time finding the balance to protect and promote forest and freshwater food systems. I also see growth opportunities in education and learning for children, youth and adults in our community.

 

Food Infrastructure

I see the issue of food infrastructure as being an untapped economic opportunity for the Thunder Bay community. As you indicate in the food strategy document “Developing a sustainable food system depends on a strong and supportive infrastructure in both the public and private realms” and that “Storage buildings and processing plants, roads, rail lines and shipping facilities are integral parts of the infrastructure that move food from farm to plate.” The Thunder Bay community is geographically located to utilize and further develop transportation systems to support the movement and access of local food production. Moving UP means bringing individuals together and supporting them in creative ways that develop infrastructure which supports a local food development process.

 

Food Procurement

I support local food procurement and the setting of targets when public dollars are being used for buying food. Currently, there are many good first step initiatives that are underway for the procurement of food from local businesses which benefits the local economy. However, as you indicate in the food strategy report regarding public institutions “Shifting even 10% of purchases to locally grown and processed foods would create a $1 million market for farmers and processors.” Moving Up means that supporting these initiatives and expanding them such as increasing the current City of Thunder Bay local food spend from 38% to 48% would have a positive local economic impact. Also, a review of the City of Thunder Bay local food procurement objectives needs to be undertaken to see which targets have been met and what next steps could be undertaken by the community.

 

Food Production

I support your statement in the food strategy document: “Producing more food in the area for sale in local markets would mean creating jobs, generating tax dollars, and having an impact on the wider economy through connections with other businesses, such as retail, manufacturing, construction, and transportation.” Moving UP means that I will encourage and support initiatives that allow for an increase in local production and markets.

 

School Food Environments

As an educator, I can inform you that schools provide leadership in the areas of improving eating habits, food skills and food literacy for children and youth. I also agree with your statement in the food strategy document: “Educational institutions are well-positioned in our communities to positively impact the health of our children.” But schools and educators cannot do this alone. It can however be achieved and completed by the collaborative work of many community partners including educators and parents. Working together with community partners such as Roots to Harvest, Thunder Bay Public Health Unit, and others, and with guidance from the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum and the School Food and Beverage policies allows for positive education and learning opportunities for our children and youth. You identify that “many (schools) have land for gardens and kitchen facilities that can be used for preparing food”, and through community collaboration it is very observable that increased positive initiatives and activities are taking place in our community. Moving UP means the further collaborative support of these and future initiatives in our community.

 

Urban Agriculture

I agree with the growth in urban agriculture which has an untapped potential. As you indicate in the food strategy report “An increasing number of people are looking for ways to produce more of the food they eat in an effort to be more economical and health conscious, and to foster a deeper connection to food and to nature.” Besides the growth in backyard gardens, I have observed some creative entrepreneurs who are growing and producing their own food products (including on site) and /or are in partnership with local producers for use in their own restaurants. Moving Up means support of these local businesses which provide positive economic outcomes for our community.

For more information please visit the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy

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© 2018 by  Jeff Upton

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