Friday October 16, 2020 | COWICHAN-MALAHAT-LANGFORD
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends
Today on World Food Day, local Member of Parliament Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) highlighted the importance of the food supply chain and food banks especially in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Alistair MacGregor, MP is the national NDP Critic for Agriculture.
The 2020 theme for World Food Day is “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future”. Each year on October 16 over 150 countries highlight World Food Day as a way to raise awareness of the issues surrounding poverty and hunger.
Impact of the pandemic:
“On World Food Day we reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on millions of Canadians who are struggling to feed their families,” said MacGregor. About the pandemic, he continued: “COVID-19 has underscored — not created — the precariousness of our food supply chain and how closely to the margins many Canadians are living.”
Income inequity is also not new with the pandemic this year. Over the past 30 year the income gap has been widening steadily and dramatically, as some individuals, businesses and sectors gained significantly in the new technological age and era of online global finance, while many others were left behind in struggling sectors or without suitable education to pivot to new areas of employment.
Climate change has also had an impact on food growing conditions, contributed to by the impact of GHG levels including from forest-clearing practices of agriculture in areas of South America.
Food supply on Vancouver Island:
On Vancouver Island in particular, the food supply chain can be impacted by interruptions of the transportation networks in scenarios such as the COVID-19 pandemic. All food brought to the island comes by airplane or ferry. This underscores the importance of growing food here on the island.
With COVID-related challenges to the regular flow of trucking through the US-Canada border, there is the impact on availability of fresh fruits and vegetables from areas like California and Florida. The cost of fresh produce goes up under such conditions.
Food bank use continues to increase:
The existence and growing need for food banks indicates that the economic system is causing many people to miss out on regular means of income so they are able to afford groceries. MacGregor points out that the use of food banks continues to increase as does the price of food. One in seven Canadians experience food insecurity (Stats Canada).
“Households with children reported food insecurity at a rate of almost 20 percent and Canadians who lost wages due to COVID-19 were almost three times more likely to be food insecure than those who were employed during the pandemic,” said MacGregor today.
“Recently announced funds to support food banks will help Canadians in times of need but it is not enough and only serves as a band-aid over the underlying issues the federal responsibility has a responsibility to tackle,” said MacGregor, urging further attention to this matter by the federal Liberal government.
Re-imagining conventional farming:
Part of the solution, says MacGregor, is working with producers and adopting low-input and low-emission approaches. “We can re-imagine what conventional farming in Canada looks like. We can increase crop yields to feed Canadians and the world’s growing population. We can do it all without harming workers or our environment,” said MacGregor whose Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding includes farms and food-growing enterprises as well as a high number of people living in poverty.
During the 2020 BC provincial Election campaign the topic of food security has come up, in particular in the BC Green party platform. BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau is the incumbent candidate in Cowichan Valley, with a cross-over footprint on the ground as MacGregor whose main constituency office is in Duncan.