Food for thought: Northerners asked to inform national food policy

A northern policy group wants Yukoners' voices to be loud and clear as the federal government consults on food policy.

'We're vulnerable up here! So being able to share those concerns... is important,' says advocate

Katelyn Friendship asking Northerners to fill out a federal survey at the Fireweed Community Market in Whitehorse Thursday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A northern policy group wants Yukoners' voices to be loud and clear as the federal government consults Canadians on food policy. 

One Liberal election promise during the 2015 campaign was the creation of a national food policy

A federal survey available online until July 27 promises to "set a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while identifying actions we can take in the short-term."

But the government needs to hear from Northerners, says a Whitehorse advocate.

"We're vulnerable up here! So being able to share those concerns, as well to share the opportunities and strengths and solutions Northerners have, is really important," says Katelyn Friendship, co-director of Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research.

"In the North especially — in the Yukon — food costs are extremely high. We're dependent on external food sources to come up the highway."

On Thursday evening, Friendship was asking people to share their views online, handing people a tablet at Whitehorse's Fireweed Community Market. 

Food security

The four themes for a national policy are:

  • Improving access to affordable food
  • Improving health and food safety
  • Conserving soil, water and air
  • Growing more high-quality food 

But Yukon's agriculture branch estimates that only about two per cent of food eaten in the territory is locally grown. The department says country food like wild game and fish accounts for some unknown percentage as well. 

One 2012 Statistics Canada study estimated 17 per cent of Yukoners are food-insecure. 

Since that time, food bank use has risen in Yukon.

"We can assume it's probably more than that now," Friendship says.

The Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research is working with the Yukon Anti-Poverty coalition and a national group called Food Secure Canada to drum up interest in the federal government's consultation.

The groups are planning a round-table and public discussion on food security in Whitehorse for July 31. 

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