The Central Okanagan Food Policy Council asked the District of Peachland election candidates some important questions on the topic of food security.
Karen Mustard took the time to respond to our questions. Thanks so much Karen!
Question 1: Across BC, only 5% of the total land base is available for agriculture and much of the farmland is underutilized. Peachland shows commitment to support agriculture within the community as evidenced by the objectives and policies in Agriculture Land use Strategy section of the Official Community Plan. Evidence shows that food self-sufficiency supports healthy eating and greater availability of locally produced fruits and vegetables may increase their consumption. Current data shows that only 40% of the population eat enough fruit and vegetables. How would you utilize the role of Councillor/Mayor to support agriculture in the interest of food security and public health?
Karen Mustard: Healthy eating creates healthy people. Educating healthy eating habits in the primary years is key to sustain a healthy and long life. Council should work in partnership with parent advisory councils in organizing and attending healthy eating events at local elementary schools. Likewise, an increase in community gardens will enable more Peachlanders to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
Question 2: 14% of people in the Okanagan are food insecure, meaning they do not have enough money to buy food. The root cause of food insecurity is poverty and in the long term requires income-based policy responses from higher levels of government. As a decision maker for the District of Peachland, what would the District’s role be in address food insecurity and poverty?
Karen Mustard: Unfortunately not everyone has the knowledge of how to grow their own produce and how to cook healthy meals for themselves and their family. Educational classes would teach people the fundamentals of planting a garden and how to cook with healthy produce. Growing your own food is affordable. For some, there may not be space for a garden where they live. The Wellness Centre on 5th Street has community gardens that are available at a low cost. From a much higher altitude perspective, it is critical that Council keeps current on the progress of the provincial government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy program, which will conduct a review of the BC’s income support system.
Question 3: From supply inputs to consumer purchases, the local food system is a significant driver of the local economy. Some municipal governments support economic development through event sponsorship, buy local campaigns and also engage with community groups in the interest of economic development. What do you see as the role of government to support agriculture production and food system sustainability as an economic driver in our community?
Karen Mustard: An informal partnership between Council and the Peachland Farmers & Crafters Market Society could potentially provide a platform for discussion on expanded food production at the local level. During the tourist season it may be economically viable for the market to operate on Saturday and Sunday. Moreover, acquiring an indoor facility would be a step towards attaining a year-round weekend market. Local vendors of smaller scale operations and community garden cultivators must also be given the opportunity to participate. Jointly, Council and the market’s not-for-profit society, would vigorously promote the market in the interest of economic development.
Question 4: Climate change and its impacts are becoming more apparent globally and locally through changing weather patterns, such as the 2017 floods. The global food system and prevalent agriculture practices contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions. What role do you see local government officials having in addressing this challenge?
Karen Mustard: Climate change and our carbon imprint is gaining recognition in our society. The goal is to reduce the carbon imprint now. Going back to the simple things in life such as riding your bike, walking to work or carpooling with friends and co-workers. Planting trees and plants and reducing pesticides keeps our environment clean. And of course, no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Question 5: Food Policy Councils support local government on developing and implementing food security related policy. There are municipalities across BC and Canada that support food policy councils with funding and/or in kind support. As an elected official, how would you integrate their work into your community?
Karen Mustard: Canadian global warming reduction programs rely on the input and support of provincial and local governments. The reverse can also be said. Accordingly, it is critical that Peachland Council maintains working relationships with all levels of government to ensure that global warming reduction programs are optimized and shared with the community. For example, many residents are unaware that food consumption is the second largest green house gas (GHG) emission impact of households.