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Food Security on Vancouver Island: Why it Matters

In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability. The pillars of our own food system here on Vancouver Island are in need of some serious repair before the whole thing comes toppling down. Here’s why:

The backstory:

Up until the 1950s, 85 percent of our food supply was grown locally here on the island (1). Today in 2019, our local food supply has dwindled to roughly 10 percent. Our island economy now imports more fruits and vegetables than we export and we lean heavily on California and other warmer regions to supply us with our food. With the human population on the island increasing so is the demand for healthy food. Vancouver Island’s mild climate and prime agricultural lands make it a great region for food production, so why aren’t we growing more of our food here? High land values, urbanization, and a shrinking farming population are just some of the reasons our local food system has declined.

Ok, so we import most of our food to the island but why does that matter?

Importing our vegetables comes with weighty repercussions.

  1. With so many amenities at our fingertips, it is easy to forget that we live on an island and are vulnerable to transportation disruptions. In the face of fuel shortages, natural disasters or conflict, the food supply in our communities would be seriously impacted. Most communities on the island only have a three-day supply of fresh food in light of an emergency.

  2. Importing our vegetables from warmer countries comes with a heavy carbon footprint, creating plenty of greenhouse gas emissions that come with transporting them to Vancouver Island.

  3. With the advancement of climate change in the form of record-breaking windstorms, forest fires, droughts, heat waves, and droughts, the regions that we depend heavily on for our food supply are already being heavily impacted. Their ability to produce the food we import is being affected. For us, that means higher priced groceries and puts up barriers for low-income families.

What can we do about it?

Actions at the regional level can move us toward a sustainable, resilient, and healthy food system, while improving our economy. According to the United Nations, if done right, agriculture – along with forestry and fisheries - can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment. And while much needs to change at a policy level to improve our food security and food sufficiency, there are ways that you can have a meaningful impact too.

Grow your own food! It doesn’t matter if it’s in your own backyard, on a balcony, or in a community garden. Urban gardening and food production help create healthy and diverse ecosystems while building community and our food security. Growing your own food also helps the environment by cutting out fossil fuels associated with large-scale agriculture production and transportation.

Support local farmers and businesses by buying locally. Buying from your local farmer allows you to support local agriculture and the local economy. Buying from your local farmers also provides the opportunity for cheaper organic produce, greater variety, and better taste. The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance recognized the desire that many islanders have to support local and developed the Island Good initiative to help consumers easily recognize what products are locally grown or made on the island. Next time you’re in the grocery store keep your eyes peeled for an Island Good logo next to your produce, dairy, or meat.

Whether you decided to grow your own food or support local farmers markets, both provides food security for your neighbourhood and experts agree that they are a great first step to food security everywhere.

(1) Capital Region Food and Agricultural Initiatives Roundtable (CR-FAIR)

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