By Ingrid Strauss, Citizen Journalist
Saanich Voice Online readers may recall a Times Colonist story back in July of this year, announcing the first municipality in the region to adopt a local food procurement policy for municipal food services and events. The story featured a large picture of a beautiful field in production. The caption under the picture read, “Kevin Michell working on a Central Saanich property. Produce from farms like this could fit the bill for a new policy proposed by the municipality of Saanich.” Yes — the farm showcasing the benefit to local farmers of the Municipality of Saanich’s new local food procurement policy was in Central Saanich, a municipality without a local food procurement policy.
The Saanich policy makes locally-produced food a priority for catering at internal meetings, at municipal food services, including the cafe at the district’s recreation centre, and at district events. It also applies to vendors at public festivals.
Councillor Dean Murdock, chairman of the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, was instrumental in Saanich’s adoption of a local food procurement policy. Councillor Murdock talked about the intention behind the policy, “Saanich municipality doesn’t buy a huge amount of food itself but the hope is its Local Food Procurement Policy will encourage other local municipalities and regional districts to adopt similar policies and together we can make a difference. By building in demand, local governments can provide an avenue to support local markets and keep farmers in production. This policy is the first of many steps that can bring us closer to food security.”
The buy-local consciousness has catapulted up from individuals to corporations, institutions, and now, local governments. The movement has broad appeal because of the wealth of benefits it creates; environmental, social, and economic , including: Expanded local marketplace and local economy by supporting local food producers and keeping dollars within the region; Consumers get to know the person growing their food and can ask about farm practices; Fresher and healthier food choices because local food is harvested when it is ripe rather than when it needs to be shipped; Profitable, productive farms that protect agricultural land from development and ensure that farmland is available as a global food crisis emerges; and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, estimated to be 14% of the energy used in food production, because local food does not travel as far as imported foods.
Of the municipalities within the Capital Regional District, Central Saanich and North Saanich have the best opportunity to procure food grown within their own boundaries. Isn’t it time for these municipalities to take care of their own farmers and environment and join a world-wide movement that supports a strong and vibrant local agricultural sector?
Central Saanich municipal election candidate Zeb King thinks it’s time to move forward on this policy noting, “More than 60 percent of Central Saanich is in the ALR. The municipality needs to move from creating studies on agriculture to actually supporting farmers. A policy to serve fresh, healthy local food should also be adopted by Saanich Peninsula Hospital and School District 63. All together, our buying power will make a difference.” King adds “If elected, I intend to work with Council to initiate bold policies that protect agriculture and put agriculture front and centre of the CRD agenda. If Central and North Saanich municipalities don’t protect their local growers and suppliers, who will?”