Farmers' markets, community gardens way to improve food security during pandemic: UBCO researcher - InfoNews

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Farmers' markets, community gardens way to improve food security during pandemic: UBCO researcher

UBC Okanagan researcher Joanne Taylor says shopping at a farmers' market for local produce or using space in a community garden to grow fruit and vegetables are steps Canadians can take to protect their own food security.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / UBCO / Nikita Shoots
August 05, 2020 - 2:29 PM

A UBC Okanagan expert on food security says Canadians can shop at their local farmers' market and use space for a community garden to produce their own food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UBCO Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow Joanne Taylor's research explores the challenges the agriculture industry and producers face while accessing a sustainable water supply for food production during climate change scenarios, according to a UBCO media release.

To describe food security, Taylor said in the release to define it as when all people at all times have "physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life," noting food security challenges largely impact the most socially marginalized.

READ MORE: UBCO researchers create liquid that repels viruses, including COVID-19

She said the current food system has not been successful in eliminating poverty and food insecurity, using the example of the 2008 global food crisis. Other challenges to food supply include the loss of farmland due to urbanization, loss of healthy soils, forest fires and other climate change induced droughts impacting the Okanagan.

The COVID-19 crisis has most affected the meat industry and migrant workers, and "Canada imports about 45 per cent of its domestic food supply while being the fifth-largest food exporter in the world. Some B.C. communities export 95 per cent of its produce creating a reliance on California for its fruit and vegetables where drought and forest fires are also prevalent," Taylor said.

READ MORE: Food security threatened as COVID-19 devastates B.C. fruit growers

Residents should be concerned, she said, as the ability to purchase food is tied to personal financial ability. COVID-19 is affecting job security, which impacts how people are able to purchase food.

"Increased food prices place further pressure on personal or family budgets, creating scenarios where families may be in food-deprived situations," she said. "I believe we should support our local farmers right here in our communities where an abundance of local, fresh, nutritious foods are grown. Shopping at farmers markets and grocery stores that support local producers builds resilient communities and decreases the impact on climate change-induced flooding and drought. Local food is also fresher and therefore more nutritious."

While no one knows how long COVID-19 will continue for, it is "critical" for everyone to learn food growing basics, and be able to adapt to future climate-change related disruptions, she said.

"It has never been more important to buy locally-produced food to support farmers and our communities. And as Canadians, we should never take fresh food and water for granted."

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