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Nova Scotia wants to get more people buying local food

The province is encouraging people to spend 20 per cent of their grocery budget on locally grown food by 2020
(stock photo)

The province is encouraging people to spend 20 per cent of their grocery budget on locally grown food by 2020.

But with the deadline now less than a year away, we're still only at about 15 per cent, according to one advocate.

"We really need to make sure that local food is being promoted and that people are really aware when they're making choices around local food," says Aimee Gasparetto, co-chair of the Halifax Food Policy Alliance.

Gasparetto thinks the government has a responsibility to educate people on where their food comes from, and the benefits of buying local.

One important thing is signage and labelling on local foods.

"You can go into a grocery store and there will be carrots produced in Canada or even Nova Scotia, and carrots produced from far away and they're the same price," she says. "But if that's not clear to you, you might choose the ones from far away just because you're unaware."

Individual consumers aren't the only people buying food though. It's important that public institutions -- universities, hospitals and schools -- also support local.

"For example, Acadia's food service plan outlines the goal of 20 per cent and moving towards 50," Gasparetto tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

But there are challenges for small and mid-sized farms trying to meet the demand of large institutions.

"Generally what we're going to be looking at is multiple farmers coming together to sort of meet the demands of a larger contract," Gasparetto says. "So if one has a really bad year, others can step in and replace that loss."

Although Nova Scotia doesn't have a year-round growing climate, Gasparetto says there are crops that do well here.

"Carrots, potatoes, parsnips. The cold climate crops that lend themselves well to storage, onions, cabbages," she says.

There are also technologies and infrastructure that can help extend the lifespan of local produce

"The other thing we want to look at is canned and frozen food," Gasparetto adds. "And we have a lot of greenhouses coming up in this province."

Select Nova Scotia, the program that encourages buying local, is currently under review. Gasparetto hopes they will return with new policies and programs.

"When we spend money on local food there's a strong ripple effect that extends beyond the individual company or farmer and into our communities," she says.

But it's easier for some people to make local purchases than others.

"Not every community has a grocery store, certainly not every community has a farmers market," Gasparetto says. 

She wants to look at making fresh and local food available to everyone in the province.

"How are we getting local food into our communities? How do we start to address some of those inequities around food access?" Gasparetto says. "Because if we're talking about local food we should be talking about everybody being able to access local food."

Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

After graduating from journalism at King's, Victoria Walton now works in the film industry and as's weekend editor.
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