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Whistler talks food

MP Goldsmith-Jones hosts conversation on Canada's food policy

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What should Canada's food policy look like?

That was the topic of discussion on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at a town-hall style meeting hosted by Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

Goldsmith-Jones' Liberal government is currently in the process of developing a nationwide food policy that will aim to balance the needs of farmers, consumers and producers alike.

Held at Whistler's Maury Young Arts Centre, the meeting was the last of three Goldsmith-Jones held on the topic in the riding.

During the meeting, she diligently scribbled down notes, which will go into a report that will be delivered to the minister of agriculture, who is in charge of developing the policy.

Goldsmith-Jones was joined on stage by Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky; Cheryl Skribe, executive director of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS); and Sue Adams, a partner at Pemberton Valley Supermarket and former owner of The Grocery Store.

Skribe said Canada's food plan needs to ensure that low-income and middle-class Canadians are able to have access to healthy food.

WCSS, she explained, runs the Whistler Food Bank, which saw around 2,800 visits last year — including 700 by children.

Skribe said that more and more long-term locals are coming in — around a quarter of clients have been in Whistler for over 10 years.

"We're starting to see long-term locals really affected by the cost of living," she said, adding that access to good food is critical for numerous community priorities, including strong families and even cultural transference (in the forms of recipes) from one generation to the next.

Canada's food policy needs to look out for the average citizen, not just big industry players, Skribe said. "It has to be about growth, dignity, and people thriving," she said.

Having run a farm for 25 years, Sturdy brought the farmer's perspective to the table.

People who want to get into farming face huge capital costs, in terms of both labour and equipment, he said.

He wants to see the government look at changes it could make to tax systems that would make it easier for them to operate.

Sturdy also wants the government to loosen up when it comes to what can be sold at farmers' markets. He was in Europe recently, he told the crowd of around 30 people, and was impressed by what farmers were able to sell: fresh meat, poultry and fish.

In contrast, it can be challenging to sell a jar of jam around here — it's pretty much just sugar and fruit, he said, asking why that needs to be safety inspected.

We need to "find a balance that works better," he added.

Nicolette Richer, owner and operator of Whistler's two Green Moustache restaurants, called on the government to put an end to organic materials ending up in the landfill.

She said that grocery stores throw out a lot of produce that is totally edible, adding that food should be consumed or sold to other businesses.

Goldsmith-Jones told Pique that the meetings have been well attended and generated a lot of solid ideas and passion. It's obvious that food policy "is something that's on people's minds," she said.

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