‘Local’ is key to food strategy

An Aldergrove farm advertises its connection to local supermarkets. This local connection is a key part of a regional food strategy adopted by Metro Vancouver.

An Aldergrove farm advertises its connection to local supermarkets. This local connection is a key part of a regional food strategy adopted by Metro Vancouver.

Natasha Jones

Times Reporter

The rising cost of transportation fuel is adding urgency to the question: Is the ability of the global food system to provide healthy food sustainable?

An answer may lie in Metro Vancouver’s regional food system strategy, which was adopted by the board in February.

“We are very fortunate in this region to have rich agricultural lands and fresh water that can produce nutritious food and provide food security closer to home,” said Harold Steves, who chairs Metro Vancouver’s agriculture committee. Steves is a Richmond councillor and, as an NDP MLA, was a key figure in pushing the Dave Barrett government to bring in the Agricultural Land Reserve in the early 1970s.

“The challenge is to put more local food in our grocery stores and on our plates.”

The strategy was developed to increase awareness of how our food is produced, distributed and consumed, as well finding ways to tackle the challenges in the food system, include the volume that is wasted.

The five goals in the strategy are to :

• Increase capacity to produce food close to home;

• improve the financial viability of the food sector;

• encourage people to make healthy and sustainable food choices;

• provide everyone with access to healthy, culturally diverse and affordable food, and

• create a food system that is consistent with ecological health.

One of the key elements of the strategy is to encourage young people to become involved in farm production, said Councillor Charlie Fox, the Township director on the Metro Vancouver board.

“There are few people looking at farming as a career,” Fox said in an interview.

Another aspect which is significant, given Langley’s vast amount of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve, is how that land is used.

“This focuses on better and more extensive use of land so that available land is put into appropriate food production for the local market,” Fox said.

Stemming from this is expanding food production for the local market.

Noting that the strategy encourages supermarkets to carry locally-produced food, Fox said that there are a growing number of Langley farms advertising that they are suppliers to local supermarkets.

He stressed the importance of buying locally-produced goods when the price of importing them is linked to higher gas and diesel prices.

Fox buys local produce. “It is fresh, has a better taste, and lasts longer,” he said.

The next step in the strategy is for Metro Vancouver to work with partners to identify priorities that will strengthen the local food system through an action plan to be completed in 2011.