Thunder Bay, ON, October 21, 2014 – For the first time, voters have the chance to see what candidates running in next week’s election have to say about food and farming in the area.
Cities make a lot of decisions that impact our ability to feed ourselves and whether we will be able to do so over the long-term. With this in mind, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy sent three questions to candidates in the upcoming municipal elections to find out what they will do to improve access to healthy food for all, protect farmland and the environment, and support local food and farm businesses. Candidates’ responses are posted on the Food Strategy’s website: tbfoodstrategy.ca.
“When we talk about municipal elections, the truth of the matter is that food is rarely ever on the radar as something to think about,” said Kendal Donahue, Food Strategy Coordinator for the Thunder Bay and Area. “This is surprising if we stop and consider how many city departments connect to food in some way and how many decisions council makes that impacts our food security and health.”
Through this campaign, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy hopes to get candidates thinking about how they can lead the charge for a healthy and sustainable food system.
Municipalities run daycares and long-term care facilities that buy and prepare food as a part of their core mandates. Buying food that is grown locally supports local businesses and jobs, while also cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions that come from transporting food long distances. Cities also make decisions that influence people’s access to food, such as whether a neighbourhood has a grocery store and whether you can get to a store using the bus. Cities can also champion community gardens, farmers’ markets, community kitchens, and farmland as ways to build green communities.
“The Vote for Food and Farming campaign is part of a grassroots movement that wants to see more government involvement in building stronger local food systems,” commented Catherine Schwartz-Mendez, a nutritionist at the Health Unit and co-chair of the Food Action Network. “Last year we saw the provincial government pass the Local Food Act and this year we’re seeing cities such as Winnipeg and Toronto host mayoral debates where the topic is food. Candidates are talking about the affordability and sustainability of food, food deserts, community gardens, and much more.”
The all candidates survey follows on the heels of an endorsement of the Food Strategy by Thunder Bay City Council earlier this year, as well as seven other local councils in the area. The Food Strategy aims to tackle a range of food issues—from rising food bank use, to loss of basic cooking skills, to shrinking processing and distribution infrastructure.
Thirty-five candidates in Thunder Bay filled out the survey and another fifteen from the surrounding communities. Fourteen hundred postcards promoting the Vote for Food and Farming campaign have been distributed over the past two weeks. Other municipalities in the province have similar campaigns underway, such as Haliburton, Ottawa, Sudbury, Essex, Wellington, and York.
The Thunder Bay & Area Food Strategy is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.