Premier Dwight Ball was preaching to the choir Tuesday morning, telling participants in 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. And Ball congratulated the group on their work on food security to date.
Everybody Eats actually 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 back in 2015.
Having heard from over 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 it doesn’t mean we should be deprived of good quality and variety of food,” she said.
Froude spoke about the potential in microfarms and potential new approaches, challenging the group to look beyond community gardens.
Interested in becoming more involved?
Apart from individual actions you might take, Food First NL is welcoming anyone interested in building recommendations beyond today.
Food First NL will be holding its annual general meeting on December 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. For more: firstname.lastname@example.org.