Briefly summarized, Food Security refers to a population’s ability to produce, purchase, access, and afford healthy food.
Consider the figure that Newfoundland imports 90% of its consumed produce which, at any point only constitutes three days worth of supply. Newfoundland relies more heavily on fast food than any other province.
We also have the lowest number of grocery stores in comparison to corner stores and fast-food restaurants. We consume more types of highly processed foods than other provinces and fewer vegetables (lower even than Nunavut – the most food insecure of all the provinces and territories). T
This has lead to Newfoundland becoming the most overweight and obese province, also having the highest rates of diabetes.
Newfoundland is also notable for having the smallest domestic agriculture production sector of any province. We rate the lowest in agriculture entrepreneurship and in land utilized for agriculture. Domestically we produce adequate chicken, eggs, and dairy (all of which require grains, which are imports). Even our fishery is largely used to supply international markets where seafood is a luxury item with more consumers offering higher prices.
Economic outlooks say that Canadians could wind up paying $350 more for groceries in 2016 due to a price catch-up in commodities markets, reflecting several consecutive poor growing seasons and droughts coupled with an El Nino year flooding many growing areas in the Southern US and Mexico. Newfoundlanders already pay a slightly higher price for groceries than the other Atlantic Provinces.
We are surrounded by water.
Any disruption in the nautical shipping industry for a major amount of time could cause province-wide vegetable shortages. Repeated instances of this would further increase reliance on highly processed, imperishable foods. Produce shipped from great distances is also, by nature of ripening, less nutritious, than similar crops grown closer to the table.
If this seems rather dismal, it is because it is.
Newfoundland is rich in food preparation, gardening and storage tradition. These were a matter of necessity – this island is remarkably inhospitable to human life.
Traditions fade in the light of modernization; cultures must decide whether or not they are valuable enough to hold onto. In our case, we may find that these traditions will serve us well again in the times ahead.
The provincial government, NGOs, citizen groups and many local businesses are leading the resurgence in pre-confederation food practices mixed with modern organization.
Check out the Community Supported Agriculture program, Island Composting or follow Food First NL. Community gardens, bulk share programs, the farmers market and the many Government food programs are all seeking to steer Newfoundland into realizing its potential for nourishing its residents and vice-versa.
The most important thing that we as citizens can do is support and grow these initiatives. The winter gives us all a beautiful time to plan for the bountiful months that lay ahead.