Fixing food for the health of Nova Scotia

Posted at July 5, 2016 | By : | Categories : Blog | 0 Comment

Fixing food for the health of Nova Scotia

What are we eating? For too many of us, it isn’t Michael Pollan’s prescription: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”

We’re eating lots of processed foods – highly processed foods – with additives including preservatives, lots of sugar and salt and taste enhancements. These foods are easy to buy and prepare quickly to provide calories. They’re also easy to waste.

Taste buds may accept these foods but our health doesn’t. What we eat can cause obesity and diabetes and heart disease and cancer and overall poor health. And that affects the way we live, work, play, earn – affects our health, determines our future.

There’s good news. When we eat better, we live better.

When we were eating food that was grown, not built to withstand the rigours of a worldwide supply chain; when a tomato was a seasonal delicacy and a potato was stored locally for year-round consumption, rates of food-related illness were much lower. It’s notable that as other countries adopt processed food their illnesses come to mirror those of fast food nations.

We can choose, and eat, and cook our way to better health and a more equitable, sustainable food system. We can find the balance between processed and unprocessed and between locally grown and imported.

Food businesses exist to sell food, which means they follow the trends determined by consumers. If we demand more local vegetables, stores will stock them. If we decrease our consumption of commodity food and buy foods that are grown by people who care about customers and the planet, if we promote policies that encourage local production that supports local economies, if we demand a health care system that fights obesity the way it did tobacco, changes will follow.

Many Nova Scotian farmers and producers are swimming upstream in the global marketplace, not because their food is too expensive, but because many imported foods do not reflect the true cost of production in countries where subsidies permit lower cost of production or where workers may be poorly paid. Loss of income across the food production sector is costing us more than we’re gaining by choosing less expensive food: loss of money that leaves the province to pay for imported food that could be grown here; of employment (many processing plants have closed), of rural residents, of the tax base; of the amenities of the countryside and, importantly, of the entrepreneurial mindset that typifies small and medium size business people who can grow the economy.

But, growing our agricultural and food production sector (farming, transportation, wholesale/retail, processing, preparation) will provide good local food and keep money in the province, thus increasing employment, building social connections and communities, improving individual and the wider determinants of health. These benefits are consistent with the We Choose Now! Directions that follow the One Nova Scotia Report by Ray Ivany et al which noted that “the single most significant impediment to change and renewal is the lack of a shared vision and commitment to economic growth and renewal across our province and among our key institutions and stakeholder communities.”

The 2016 Food Summit on May 28th and 29th at Fountain Commons, Acadia University, sponsored by Friends of Agriculture in Nova Scotia, will address these issues.

We’re pleased you’ve joined us for an informative and inspiring two days of conversations with people who are working to make a difference in the lives of the people who produce and eat food. Sincere thanks to the speakers who are giving generously of their time to help us discover healthy food now and for the future.

Sincere thanks to the Presenters, our Students and FANS Board Members for their ideas and assistance with the Summit.

Linda Best

Chair, Fiends of Agriculture in Nova Scotia

About Linda

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