N.S. needs boost to reach local food consumption goal — 20% by 2020
Local-food advocate urges government to take a more hands-on approach
Nova Scotia is working steadily toward having residents spend 20 per cent of their grocery money on locally produced food by 2020, but is falling short.
The number sits around 15 per cent with just months to go.
Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell told CBC News his department is currently reviewing the province's buy-local program, Select Nova Scotia, ahead of the 2020 goal.
He said the focus is to increase awareness and improve how local food consumption is measured.
But creating awareness is not enough, says Aimee Gasparetto, co-chair of the Halifax Food Policy Alliance.
The organization, which promotes a local, healthy and sustainable food system, believes the provincial government needs to actively work with communities and businesses to achieve its goal.
"We need to be looking at policies and infrastructure that support getting more local, healthy food into our public institutions," Gasparetto said. "To have these institutions be real models and advocates for how we can start to drive change."
She said health and education sectors hold prominent roles in this province and can lead by example.
"They have a massive opportunity," she said.
There have been some signs of success.
For example, universities and hospitals in Nova Scotia have taken steps to bring more local food through their doors.
Dalhousie University's Agriculture campus in Truro has a .45 hectare, student-led garden that provides fresh produce to students and staff. In 2016, 7,700 kilograms of fruits and vegetables harvested from the garden were served at the Truro and Halifax campuses.
Acadia University in Wolfville followed the provincial government and set its own 20 per cent target in 2012.
"We've achieved that goal and we're now exceeding it," said Jodie Noiles, sustainability co-ordinator at Acadia. "Our long term target over the next 10, 20 years is a 50 per cent local procurement target."
Most of Acadia's success comes from relationships with local businesses and farms, said Noiles. The problem is local producers struggle to meet the demand from large institutions.
That's where the provincial government can play a role, Noiles said.
"Helping producers work together and facilitate that business process and those relationships with larger purchasers —the hospitals, universities, colleges, bigger companies — is a really important facilitation role that I think the province can play."
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said 20 per cent of the produce, dairy, eggs and meat it serves in its 43 facilities will be locally sourced by the end of the year.