CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - An abundance of food is produced on land across Prince Edward Island while considerable nourishing edibles are hauled from the waters surrounding the province.
Yet many Islanders lack adequate quality and quantity of food in their daily consumption.
The most recent numbers from Statistics Canada shows just over 15 percent of households in P.E.I. experience some degree of food insecurity.
Ann Wheatley of the P.E.I. Food Security Network believes many are shocked to learn just how many Islanders regularly go without a good meal.
“That one in four or five children is living in a household affected by food insecurity is terrible,’’ she says.
“I mean we are supposedly Canada’s Food Island. So I think people really want to see that change.’’
“We are way too reliant on imported food. There is a real environmental cost to that…it comes from a long distance. It’s been produced in ways that are not very good for the environment.’’
Wheatley took part in a food summit in Charlottetown on Thursday that looked to share ideas and develop projects to move food security initiatives forward.
She was pleased with a turnout consisting of a broad array of people with different interests in the food system.
There were farmers, fishermen, educators, dieticians, government employees and community volunteers, among others.
Wheatley says improving the level of food security is a complex issue that involves many players.
Policies need to be developed in a host of areas – social, environmental and agricultural, to name a view – to truly make inroads.
The federal government exploring a national food policy, the province voicing interest in a local food act, and the P.E.I. Home and School Federation endorsing a universal nutrition program are among movement that offers Wheatley cause for optimism.
“Our goal as the Food Security Network has always been to get people involved, to sort of create more of an awareness of what our food system looks like, what some of the challenges are, what a healthy food system could look like, and kind of work towards developing some policy change,’’ she says.
“People are thinking seriously about it.’’
Wheatley adds there is a greater awareness for the need to develop a strong, local food system in Prince Edward Island.
“We are way too reliant on imported food,’’ she observes.
“There is a real environmental cost to that…it comes from a long distance. It’s been produced in ways that are not very good for the environment.’’