2nd Saskatchewan Food Summit focuses on policy and action

Posted on April 11, 2013

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food summitby Karen Tanino, U of S If there is any topic that every person on the planet can relate to, it is food. The 2nd Saskatchewan Food Summit (Feb. 27, 28, 2013 at TCU Place) provided a forum to address the regional food economy, access to locally produced food and Saskatchewan food security issues, in a globalized market. The Summit attracted over 150 delegates from across the University of Saskatchewan campus, provincial and municipal governments, industry and NGO’s with keynote speakers from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. The Food Summit followed one of the main recommendations of the previous Summit: that policy issues are critical to making meaningful progress. The theme for the 2nd Saskatchewan Food Summit theme reflected this goal: “Building Sustainable Food Systems, Towards Policy and Action.” The nine sessions were: 1) Policy and the food system panel: an analysis of policy effects on shaping a sustainable food system 2) Designing a sustainable food system: key considerations in shaping a food system for the 21st century 3) Global perspectives in advancing food security 4) Building food secure communities 5) Distribution: building a start-up distribution system for small producers 6) Institutional Food Service and food safety: addressing the regulatory barriers 7) First Nations and Métis Peoples potential for local food production; strategies and initiatives 8) Land use planning and food production: three models from Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta 9) Saskatoon Regional Food System Project Take home messages included:

  • Food Security is a basic human right
  • Global Food Security depends upon Availability, Access, Utilization and Stability
  • Requires an accurate diagnosis of poverty; may not be a lack of food, but lack of QUALITY food and affordability
  • Perspective on food security should be broadened to encompass: Community level Food Security, Healthy Cities, Regional level Food Security
  • Need discussions with ALL stakeholders (community-driven), importance of youth and schools
  • Requires trust in order to build relationships, but change CAN happen quickly. For example, in 2011 there were only two local crops purchased and distributed by The Grocery People (TGP) to the local Federated Coop retail stores. In 2013, agreements have been made with growers for over 33 different crops—along with an increase in growers meeting Canada GAP standards from two to 31 in the past two years. Meeting labour supplies will be an issue.
  • Avoid Food Swamps, location of junk food, need research on developing nutritious equivalents to long shelf-life junk food products.
  • Food is a more economically resilient sector compared to the auto sector
  • Consider the economic benefits of regional food—Employability, Training, Living Wage
  • Promising plant research results may enable crop production under increasingly unpredictable climates. Remember the hidden elements which are often ignored but critical—plant roots, postharvest losses.
  • Consider the nutritional needs from the plant, to the plant product, to the consumer (Nutrition-sensitive agriculture)
  • Importance of measuring, quantifying various activities in order to demonstrate progress
  • Revising By-Laws is an effective level for change
  • Horsemeat scandal: laws are in place but are only as good as the weakest link.
  • Consider small format food stores, mobile good food market
  • We are all consumers
  • Costs are barriers to small companies. Need implementation guidelines for small companies.
  • Need consistency in Public Health Inspection
  • Northern Agriculture is fragmented and needs to pool resources across different government ministries.
  • Whole cost accounting is required (e.g. high cost of health care vs. avoidance of diabetes due to better diets).
  • Sustainability should not be just a buzz word—what do we mean? How to achieve?
  • Reintegrate and reinvent “home economics” into the education system.
  • School programs should not only be needs-based, requires a cultural shift for all kids.
  • Consider “Food Places”, integrating the urban-rural “rurban”
  • Planning for the future—“Land Banks”. Municipal Development Plan (MDP), need >10yr
  • Zoning for “Agricultural Residential”
  • Alberta Land Use Framework can be a useful model

There is not simply one solution to an issue---but multiple solutions to problems. There are challenges but these challenges can become opportunities. In these times of fiscal restraint, as speaker Bill Reynolds, said, we should not be defeatist but instead of doing more with less, “do more with more.” Shift priorities to areas which can best benefit the regional food economy, access to locally produced food and Saskatchewan food security issues, in a globalized market.