Locally sourced food will benefit Brandon
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One of the more cringe-inducing national news headlines this week came early on Thursday morning when a business story on the Globe and Mail’s website stated that grocery prices were to keep rising this year, even as grocers like Loblaw reported increased profits in the midst of ballooning inflation.
The report stated that Loblaw executives expect food prices to keep rising through the first half of this year, blaming suppliers for what company chairman and president Galen Weston said were calls for “significant cost increases.”
“We continue to believe that these inflationary pressures are temporary and that they will ease with time,” Weston said. “But predicting how long that will take is proving extremely challenging.”
As the Globe reported, grocery companies in Canada have come under fire for not doing enough to combat food inflation, which has outpaced general inflation for more than a year. Such accusations have been underscored by data from Statistics Canada this week, showing that the cost of food at grocery stores and restaurants rose 10.4 per cent year-over-year last month — higher than the 10.1 per cent increased noted last December.
While Weston has pointed to ongoing supply issues, the war in Ukraine, droughts and an outbreak of avian influenza are to blame for these rising food prices, it’s notable that Loblaw’s profits still rose nearly 12 per cent by the end of last December. And they’re not alone.
All of this is enough to make the ordinary grocery shopper’s blood pressure rise, right along with the cost of a box of corn flakes in the cereal aisle and strawberries in the produce section. For a significant number of Canadians, higher food costs are more than merely troublesome. Many shoppers have flocked to low-budget food stores to try to cut their bills, and the lineup for food hampers at places like Samaritan House have grown considerably.
With inflation hitting so many aspects of our lives — from gas to food to the cost of everyday home staples — it’s no wonder people continue to feel the pinch.
It’s also not surprising that more people are turning to other options to cut costs, such as gardening. As we reported last year, more city residents are turning to their own backyards to produce food for themselves and their neighbours. We brought you the story last year of Steffi Lazerte and Alex Koiter, who have been converting the property around their home on Third Street into a series of produce patches and raised beds.
They also have a plot in a nearby community garden to grow their own potatoes and a strip of land on a friend’s family acreage where they have more gardens.
Of course, not everyone has the available land to plant a garden in their own backyards, but one of the things Brandon — and its community partners — have done right over the last three decades is continue to build and maintain the network of community gardens that have sprung up across the city. There are at least 384 raised garden beds available to Brandonites in this city, from the McDiarmid Seniors Garden never Vincent Massey Sports Field, to the many gardens built at community centre and park locations in many neighbourhoods, there are options available to people who are trying to cut down on costs at the grocery store.
And that’s not counting the many spaces utilized by some 400 gardeners at Hummingbird Garden in the southwest corner of the city — which annually has a waiting list to get in as well.
While no plan is perfect, of course, we do have to give at least one aspect of Brandon’s updated 30-year city plan some plaudits when it comes to its stated goals for food security in our community. Among them include plans for expanded public gardening and mentorship programs for inexperienced gardeners.
The plan also calls for more garden space closer to home within existing neighbourhoods, and incentives for developers to provide community gardens in new neighbourhoods.
For all of the benefits of living in our community — and there are benefits, make no mistake — there have been increasing financial pressures on our citizens that are making it more difficult to make ends meet. Anything that can help foster the growth of locally sourced food will be a benefit to this city, and we’re glad to see that our city planners have made note of it.
We would only advise our city planners that priority should be given to core-area neighbourhoods where garden access is harder to come by, and to help organizations like the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, which has done so much to build garden space in our community, be given added attention to help them do what they are already doing so well.