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Canadian Publications Agreement No. 40727545

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MP hosts Food Policy Town Hall meeting

 

September 22, 2017

 

BY TERRY GILLIS

 

On Friday afternoon (September 15) approximately one hundred people attended a Food Policy Town Hall meeting at the Douro Community Centre, hosted by MP Maryam Monsef and her staff in partnership with Peterborough Public Health.

In attendance were representatives from a variety of food sectors including; farmers, processors, retailers, transportation and distribution and, of course, consumption. As well, about fifty grade seven and eight students from St. Alphonsus Catholic Elementary School in Peterborough arrived with teachers Aaron McFadden and Mariza Zister.

Students were brought to the Town Hall meeting, said teacher Mariza Zister, “to participate in a Town Hall meeting and to have a voice in government.”

Town Hall participants were arranged in groups and were asked to discuss three questions:

1. Is ongoing reduction of farmed acreage a concern? Are there influences that will change the patterns experienced over the last 40 years? Should action be taken to prevent ongoing loss and/or put idle farmland back to work?

2. Is the reduction in the number of farmers and farm businesses a concern to our community? If so, what could be done to reverse current trends?

3. Are there actions that could be taken to increase the economic and practical feasibility of local food production to help Peterborough feed itself?

MP Monsef helped the St. Alphonsus students with the questions and asked several young participants to serve as spokespersons for their group.

Grade 8 St. Alphonsus student Austin said, “my family’s working on the health and safety of the  community by making foods safe.” In response to MP Monself’s question on how they are doing that, Austin replied, by making sure it’s safe to eat.

Grade 8 St. Alphonsus student Alexander spoke for his group on income equality. “If healthy foods are already pretty affordable but if your income your getting from your business or your job isn’t bringing in enough money for you to be able to afford this healthy food, then your forced to go and buy the cheaper unhealthy foods that aren’t good for your health instead of getting the healthy foods that will help you,” Alexander told the packed community centre.

One young student suggested bringing in a basic income guarantee and that there should be community gardens in all schools and that there should be more greenhouses to supply grocery stores all year long.

Monsef said she was pleased to have so many children included in the conversation.

“Having young people was really important for all of us because a common theme that ran through the dialogue was the importance of the sustainability of the sector,” Monsef said.