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Food policies play a central role in everybody's life

Food. It gets more than a few mentions in this week’s edition. Not a big surprise, as it’s a central part of the life of each and every one of us.

There is, of course, the matter of the potential loss of a grocery store in Elmira. There is something ironic in Woolwich attempting to keep the No Frills in operation despite Loblaws’ end-run around the township’s plans in order to open the store in the first place. Whether an appeal to the Competition Bureau will have any effect at all remains to be seen, but there is a case to be madefor looking at Elmira’s situation.

On a more general note, food’s connection to our health and well-being – an emphasis on local food – will be front and center as Woolwich Healthy Communities Month gets going next week.

With A Taste of Woolwich, the organizers hit on a range of issues at play for a healthier and more sustainable future, as food comes with economic, health and environmental impacts. Generally, the more local the food, the better the outcomes on all fronts.

The goal of the event is to showcase what’s available locally, to demonstrate how incorporating local food into our diets needn’t be a chore and to have some fun doing it.

From a marketplace through to cooking demonstrations, the emphasis will be on what local food can do for you. While it’s early yet for local produce, except for greenhouse operations such as Floralane Produce, there are meats, grains and dairy products available year-round.

Local food does tend to cost a little more, but consumers benefit through fresher food and there’s a multiplier effect on the economy, as every local agricultural job supports another four jobs.

The more educated people are about the benefits of local food, they’re more likely to pay a bit more for it, say proponents of the local-food movement.

On the whole, we’re increasingly conscious about the quality of food we buy for ourselves and our families. We’re also more aware of what it costs the environment to have food transported thousands of kilometres to appear at local grocery stores. Then there’s the direct cost: soaring fuel prices have been reflected in what we pay at the checkout counter, not to mention the biofuels debate and the impact on grain prices.

As well, we know farmers are under incredible financial pressures, and that even as retail prices climb, that doesn’t always translate into more cash for producers. The more chances farmers have to sell directly to consumers or to reduce the number of middlemen, the greater their share of the food dollar, which is traditionally small.

In this climate, projects such as the Buy Local! Buy Fresh! program offer consumers food that is local, organically grown and offered up through co-operatives that see farmers get paid directly for their goods, among other examples.

For most urban dwellers, food is something found on store shelves – how it got there is the same kind of mystery behind the lights turning on when they flick a switch. In Woolwich and Wellesley townships, straddling the divide between rural and urban, agriculture remains an everyday part of life. Events such as A Taste of Woolwich let everyone get a closer look at that reality.

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