Food is a basic need, but we’re increasingly disconnected from its production. The recent notion that it will magically and dependably appear on the supermarket shelf may be a risky one in light of climate change and economic factors. Bringing some food production back makes sense, if we can ensure easy, affordable access to nutritious food that’s grown here.
The Cost of Food
The average cost of the 2013 nutritious food basket in BC for a reference family of four was $914/month. This is an increase in cost of $46/month between 2011 and 2013, or 5.3% over the two years. Powell River’s costs are calculated as part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, but food prices for that area are skewed by the cheaper food in the Greater Vancouver area. For the Island Health Authority, the same food basket cost $873 in 2011 and $948 in 2013, an increase of $75 or 8.6% over the two years.
Are You Getting Your Fruit and Veggies?
According to the “My Health My Community” survey, 35.3% of Powell Riverites report eating 5+ servings of fruit and vegetables per day. This compares favourably to 32.2% for the Coastal Rural health region, and 27.2% for the Vancouver Coastal Health region. We’re bucking a downward trend. 2014 Census data from the Canadian Community Health Survey show that the percentage of people eating 5+ fruit and vegetable servings per day has decreased since 2010 in Canada by 3.8 percentage points, in BC by 2.6 points and in the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi health region by 17.6 points.
There is a perception that many of the small farms in Powell River are “hobby farms” and not to be taken seriously. The 2011 Census of Agriculture lets us see how many farmers have off-farm jobs and how much time they spend at them. Powell River region farm operators are a little more likely to work off the farm—57.1% of farm operators in our region report paid off-farm work, compared with 53% for BC and 46.9% Canada-wide. Those who do work off the farm spend less time at it—21.4% report working less than 20 hrs/week off the farm, compared to 10.1% for BC and 8.6% for Canada. 7.1% in Powell River report working away from the farm for 30-40 hrs/wk compared to 15.8% for BC and 13.7% for Canada.
Where Do We Buy Our food?
In 2015, the Society for the Advancement of Local Sustainable Agriculture (SALSA) carried out a local agriculture survey in Powell River. Even though 82% of 194 respondents said that they grow some of their own food, large supermarkets are still the #1 place to buy food for 74% of them. Local grocers like Mitchell Bros and Ecossentials are the most popular second choice.
From the Survey …
In the last four years, nearly 75% of responders felt that their access to local food had improved.
Food Systems Assessment
Powell River’s Food Security Project (part of PREP Society) is conducting a Community Food System Assessment of the regional food system. Information is being collected on topics such as the affordability of healthy food, access to food outlets, barriers to local food production, health and nutrition in schools, emergency preparedness, and food waste management. The final report, to be available in early 2016, will provide an overview of the current food system and identify key opportunities and actions to improve local food security. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.