Submitted by Melissa Hemphill, food security coordinator, Community Connections (Revelstoke) Society.
Shopping locally has a myriad of benefits for yourself and the community, but when it comes to food, those benefits multiply. ‘Tis the season to enjoy foods grown in BC, including those grown right in our little mountain town. Here’s a look at what’s trending in Revy…
Who is Eating Local Food?
A report released in February 2018 by BC Stats, titled BC Agrifood and Seafood Domestic Consumption Study, revealed a strong interest in our region for purchasing locally produced foods. The Thompson/Okanagan/Kootenay region, along with the Vancouver Island/Coast region, include a “higher proportion of individuals who have a high interest in premium local food, and are unconcerned about price.”
The study looked at which factors drive BC consumers to buy locally-produced products and found that competitive prices, in-store initiatives, and clear product origin labelling are effective marketing tools. Strong potential to grow the resident market for BC food products was reinforced with the finding that over 70% of consumers are interested in supporting the local economy and desire fresh, safe foods to eat. By providing clear signage that products are produced in BC, sales of local foods could increase, further growing our local food system. BC products are “perceived to be fresher, healthier and safer than products coming from elsewhere.”
Unprocessed foods such as eggs, milk, and fresh fruits and vegetables are staples that are the most likely to be locally sourced. Baked goods and dairy products are the two product categories that the study found accounted for the most purchases of BC processed foods. Local alcoholic beverages meet 40% of the total alcoholic beverage demand in the province.
While supermarkets are where most BC residents are buying BC foods primarily, farmers markets, specialty stores and convenience stores also play a significant role in making BC products available to residents.
Farmers market coupons
For the 11th year running, Community Connections is proud to be the community partner with the BC Association of Farmers Markets and their Nutrition Coupon Program. In the past this program has provided $10,000 – $12,000 worth of coupons to use each year for foods at the farmers market. Coupons are given out to seniors, pregnant mothers, families and others experiencing food insecurity. These coupons give access to nutritious, fresh, wholesome foods, that could otherwise be unattainable to program clients.
There is a huge boost to the amount of coupons available for our community members for this farmers market season. With an increase in funding from the provincial government and additional support from the Columbia Basin Trust, Community Connections will distribute $20,496 worth of coupons to local residents to use between June 11 – October 31, 2018.
This program not only supports those struggling to meet their nutritional needs, but it also supports local growers and producers. The coupons are usable at both Saturday morning markets, and can be used for fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, eggs, dairy and cut herbs.
Eating local for less
In Julie Castillo’s book Eat Local For Less, which is available through the Okanagan Regional Library, she dedicates a whole chapter to “How to make local, organic, and sustainable food cost less than supermarket food.” She explains why local, small-scale farm products are usually more expensive (think labour costs, product quality, time spent selling, small-scale, costly regulations, etc.) than large-scale industrially produced foods. She also lists 10 ways to eat local for less:
- Eat less meat
- Make several meals from each chicken or large piece of meat
- Buy the seasonal abundance and freeze/can it
- Buy single-ingredient items and cook meals from scratch
- Buy direct from real farmers
- Plan meals around what’s cheapest at the time
- Serve a filing first course made of what’s cheap, serve a smaller second course of the pricier stuff
- Grow some of it yourself
- Buy the farmer’s seconds
- Buy the whole cow or pig, not just the pricey cuts
Castillo argues that when you buy locally-produced foods directly from farmers you will pay the “true cost of production”. Foods that seem cheap and convenient have “hidden costs, deferred expenses, and a high price to be paid in many other aspects of our lives” (think health care system). A commonly held conception is that you can “pay your farmer now, or pay your doctor later.”
Purchasing unprocessed, locally-produced foods is good for your health, your environment, and your community. If price is not a barrier for you, you can access local foods at the farmers markets and in our food stores.To help those in need, you can donate money or excess garden produce to the Community Connections’ Plant-a-Row, Grow-a-Row program for others to enjoy.
The high cost of living in Revelstoke creates barriers for some residents to access locally-produced foods, but there are local supports. Follow the above tips, join the Local Food Initiative’s community garden, check out Community Connections’ Food Bank and their Food Connect program, plus the Low Cost and Free Meals and Food resource on their website. Bon appetit!