National Food Policy should focus on Indigenous peoples first

When I am completely overwhelmed with the task at hand (which is often), I sit down, make a to-do list, and break the task down into smaller, more achievable steps. I prioritize the most pressing issue first, or the one that simply must happen before the other pieces can fall into place.

My hope, in reading through the federal government’s national food policy consultation report, is that the powers that be do the same when it comes to one day establishing — a truly national vision — for our food system.

The report, found here, alludes to the massive scope and scale of such a policy. It’s a momentous undertaking, and perhaps the Liberal’s very quiet unveiling of it, hints to their reluctance to move too quickly on a project that is likely a decade’s worth of work.

If I may be so bold, I’d suggest they start with meeting the needs of our northern, remote communities and those of our Indigenous people (these two are not mutually exclusive, remember). Here’s why.

First, this is our most pressing need. While I recognize it is not only those in remote communities who suffer food insecurity, our northern and many Indigenous communities face the added challenges of remoteness and short (to non-existent) growing seasons. Second, if we tackle our most complicated and remote challenges first, we’ll have already studied and developed the technologies and systems-based approaches that will translate to solutions within our cities and rural communities, even when land (and money) is scarce.

Cynics may accuse me of being disingenuous. They may say that my call for action for our Indigenous peoples is a way to distract from the other anti-commercial agriculture concerns highlighted in the report. To be sure, the report highlights several concerns brought up by those surveyed, concerns that many within agriculture view as activist-driven, such as the mentioned need for more oversight and regulation surrounding pesticides and antibiotic use in livestock.

(I could write reams on the follow up questions I’d love to ask of the data — such as what background information was provided on each subject, or if people were given extra information regarding certain topics, but I filled out the survey, I already know the answer.)

I assure you, I’m sincere — and maybe even being optimistic about the entire idea — when I say focusing on serving our Indigenous and remote communities first would pave the way for a National Food Policy that addresses the diverse needs of our entire food system.

My hope is that by starting with serving those who lack the very basic human need — enough to fill our bellies — will encourage those at the top of the food (politics) food chain to realize all the other nice-to-have priorities absolutely can take a number and wait.

Related:

The hierarchy of food needs — and why food issues will continue to be contentious 

 

Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.

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