The results of a report released this week by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Ecology Action Centre are disturbing, if not shocking. Nova Scotians are not eating enough food produced locally.
According to the report, Are Nova Scotians Eating Local?, only 13 per cent of the food dollar we spend is earned by farmers in this province, down from 17 per cent in 1997. On average, our food products are traveling 4,000 km from the farm to our plate.
The report recommends that prices need to be more “real.” While there is nothing wrong with importing food, and it is important to have an open market, the prices should reflect only real production costs. Uneven subsidies and regulations allowed in other countries should not be allowed to provide an unfair advantage over local products.
The health benefits of eating fresh local fruit and vegetables also needs to be recognized and better promoted. Consumers need to better educated about these benefits, retail outlets need to better label these products, and governments should offer rebates to those choosing to buy wholesome local foods. Eating healthy needs to be more affordable.
The benefits of eating local are widespread. Depending less on imported products would mean a reduction in transport-related greenhouse gases. Buying more local products would make for a more successful agriculture industry. And eating more fresh local food would make for healthier Nova Scotians, less taxing on our health care system.
The results of this report may seem like bad news, but its effect can only be positive if it leads to action. It is up to all of us to make sure it does not collect dust.