A growing concern for food sustainability within rural communities

Hillary Johnson

Food sustainability within rural and remote communities has become a growing concern over the years, especially during these unprecedented times. Coast Mountain College Coastal Ecology Professor Ken Shaw visited Terrace City Council to discuss possible solutions. He explains that the COVID pandemic exposed northwestern B.C.'s supply chain fragility, which promoted panic buying and changes in customers purchasing patterns. In response to this, Shaw decided to take on a project he calls the COVID gardens.

"The idea was; everything coming from this garden would go to the food bank, so I have been able to, with a tremendous number of limitations, drop off 100 dollars worth of fresh produce to the Prince Rupert food bank every week since the middle of June. With better planning and soil and an even better summer, that number could be significantly larger."

River Mist Farm Owner Charles Claus feels that there has been an uptick in awareness of local food issues within the community, but there is always room for improvement.

"Local food isn't always the cheapest, but it's fresh, it's tasty, and it's good for you, and it helps support local sustainability, and it promotes it. The more we can realize that growing food locally is a key driver of the economy but also for our health. If highway 97 north-south were ever cut off in the Fwereer canyon with a slide, we would be affected here in northern BC. We need to think about these things, so the more we can shop at the farmers market, farm stands, I think its all a good thing going forward."

Shaw also feels that one solution to building resilience into our food systems is to shop locally and invest in food programs.

"School programs, local markets, community root sellers. As governments, we are investing a lot of money in infrastructure, roads, railways, bridges, ports, and all sorts of things to facilitate and build local economies. We can certainly do the same thing around the food infrastructure."

Claus mentions another benefit of buying from local farmers is the ability to communicate and ask questions regarding the products, which is not an option while shopping in a supermarket.

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