EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE -The best gatherings of human beings always involve food − be it friends in a cafe, happy or solemn family occasions or sharing oranges at a kids’ soccer game.
But, keeping local food on our plates and supporting local farmers depends on what happens in other “Big Issues”: social inequalities, inflation, global capitalism and climate change.
Transition Town Peterborough, originator of the Greenzine, strongly promoted buying local food as a way to economic resilience in an economy threatened by the climate crisis. (Some local readers will remember The Purple Onion Festival held annually for a number of years that promoted local food and its producers.)
Such purchasing helps keep local farmers and smaller food retailers in business, and makes for less dependence on international supply chains. But it’s not that simple.
Canada has a National Food Policy to “help guide public, private, and nonprofit sector actions related to improving food-related outcomes and create space for working together across sectors” and is a “platform that can be built upon over time.”
But it doesn’t set out tangible ways to achieve these aspirations nor to address social and regional barriers to accessing food.
It’s what we can do locally.
It’s not only a question of how much we produce and buy locally. In Quebec, during the COVID pandemic, an ad campaign promoted local food buying. After the height of the pandemic, however, local sales returned to former low levels. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/food-baskets-plummet-1.6507255
Local food security must also:
- gradually build smaller-scale, local, biodiversity-friendly food production to replace, as much as possible, the global economy’s long, precarious, fossil-fuelled supply chains
- end unsustainable farming practices and improve soil health
- preserve good agricultural land from speculation and urban sprawl development
- have locally-available means of meeting farmers’ financial and mental health burdens
- ensure/agree upon locally good working conditions and the rights of domestic and migrant agricultural workers
- ensure equal access to local food for marginalized citizens of low income by means of, for instance, better public transit, municipal zoning for smaller, decentralized food store locations in suburban neighbourhoods
- have local institutional and municipal “social procurement” policies that apply their big buying power to support local suppliers. Fortunately, the City of Peterborough has such a policy: https://www.peterborough.ca/en/city-hall/bids-and-tenders.aspx. Such a community will have more control over life-essential food and contribute to raising incomes – for a healthier community on all counts.
- potentially benefit from the support of a local e-currency, that keeps money flowing within a community of local purchasers and local suppliers.
There are farm and agricultural associations at the local and provincial levels that can be important players (eg. lobbyists) in localization. Also applied research projects from educational institutions provincially and locally (Trent Centre for Community Research.) But life-sustaining food security in the face of the climate emergency demands bigger resources from the federal level than have so far been offered.
Can local communities create their own food security without federal assistance? We may simply HAVE to (with the above suggestions) as climate impacts grow more severe.