A town hall-style meeting was held Thursday evening at the Fort Frances Public Library to discuss food policy with local MP Don Rusnak.
Similar talks are taking place across the country to create a food policy for Canada, which the federal government’s website describes as “a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food while also identifying actions we can take in the short-term.”
At the meeting, Rusnak stressed the importance of these discussions while clarifying his job was to listen and take the ideas gathered back to Ottawa.
“Ideas don’t start in Ottawa, the best ideas start locally,” Rusnak noted, adding the ideas gathered would be discussed with Agriculture and Agri-Food minister Lawrence MacAulay.
A handful of community members were on hand for the session, who provided around an hour of discussion on four topics surrounding food policy.
These topics covered increasing access to affordable, nutritious, and safe food, health and food safety concerns, the environmental impact of food production, and initiatives to help grow more high-quality food in Canada.
One point that came up often during the discussion was transportation problems and the importance of food transport subsidies.
Local elk farmer Bill Darby, who also is president of the district abattoir board, brought this up as a way to provide healthy food for the north while increasing food sustainability and security across the country.
The abattoir has tried to market to more northern communities like Sioux Lookout, but sometimes it also can come down to making the right connections with the right people, said Darby.
He also cited attempts to start a local Cloverbelt food hub here-something hindered by transportation costs and associated problems with warehousing and storage.
Other topics brought to Rusnak’s attention included school lunches, food inspection standards, GMO labelling, health and food education in schools, and border concerns in the face of NAFTA negotiations.
For those who could not attend the open house, an online survey about a food policy for Canada is available at www.canada.ca/en/campaign/food-policy
Those attending were asked to share their ideas in further detail by completing the online survey, as well.