Halifax ranked lowest city in Canada for food affordability

WATCH: The gaps, strengths and weaknesses of the food system in our region were highlighted today by the Halifax Food Policy Alliance. The group has conducted the first-ever assessment of the food system in Halifax and the results are surprising. Global’s Natasha Pace reports.

HALIFAX – A local report released on Wednesday at the Halifax Seaport Farmers market provides a first-ever overview of the food system in Halifax.

According to the Food Counts Halifax Food Assessment, food insecurity is a serious and growing problem in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

“20% of Haligonians experience food insecurity on a regular basis,” says Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia. “This is something that we need to take notice of.”

The report looked at the food security of 33 of the largest cities in Canada. Halifax ranked last, with many people finding it difficult to afford healthy food.

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“There are many reasons why people can’t afford healthy food, obviously this depends on the income that we’re making, and in some cases, people are on social assistance or disability and this can make it difficult to access foods in terms of economics,” says Aimee Carson, Community Food Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre.

The report also noticed a 28% increase in food bank use in the city. It may seem surprising but it’s not a new problem.

“I think what makes it feel new is that we haven’t been able to see it in data like this before,” says Dr.Watson-Creed.

It’s not just consumers that are vulnerable, food providers are as well. Farmers across the municipality and those who work in the fishing industry are aging.
That’s an issue that’s raising many questions about the next generation of local food production.

The report does highlight some positive things, including an increase in community-based food initiatives. Among them are a dozen farmer’s markets in the city.

“I think it just gives people another access point for food, and it gives a venue for producers to bring healthy, local food to the people,” says Valerie Blair, Healthy Communities Coordinator with Public Health.

The report also noted that more than 50 stores and offices in Halifax have joined the Make Breastfeeding Your Business Initiative. It’s a way to create positive environments for breastfeeding, something authors of the report say will help demonstrate community support for the most local source of food for infants.

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It’s hoped the report will help organizations and government work towards building a sustainable food system in the municipality.

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