By the simple act of eating three or more times a day, we make decisions that directly impact our health. But beyond the impact on our individual health, these choices can also play a role in either weakening or strengthening our environment, our communities and our economies.
At this time where the pandemic is compelling us to look at things differently about our food sovereignty, Équiterre is seeking to help to build truly sustainable agricultural and food systems that can withstand future crises.
JUST WHAT IS FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ANYWAY?
Food sovereignty is the ability to meet the food needs of a local population, to maintain the diversity of our crops and to ensure easy access to food for all. By “access” we mean the ability to buy nutritious food at affordable prices. An important prerequisite of food sovereignty is fair remuneration for farmers and workers so they can make a decent living.
For Équiterre, food sovereignty must be sustainable over time. This brings into play the notion of resilience, which is the ability of our systems to withstand shocks like the pandemic or climate change. A resilient food system entails sustainable modes of production that minimize impacts on the environment.
SO WHERE ARE WE AT IN QUEBEC?
Half of the food we eat is grown or processed in Quebec. When referring to products that are processed here, we are referring to food produced in Quebec from ingredients that may have been grown elsewhere.
But a mere 33% of what we eat was both grown and produced in Quebec, i.e. food whose ingredients come from Quebec and that were also processed and packaged in Quebec, such as maple syrup – our Quebec gold!
To achieve greater food sovereignty, we can encourage producers by eating more locally grown grains, pulses and berries. To learn about our agricultural products and our export/import ratio, have a look at this article.
By choosing to eat local we can reduce transport-related carbon emissions, especially when we buy our food as directly as possible from the producer. Discovering the wide variety of food grown in Quebec is an added benefit.
FROM SOIL TO PLATE: SOLUTIONS ARE WITHIN REACH
Équiterre has always encouraged sustainable agriculture and food systems through proposing and supporting innovative public policy as well as citizen and corporate actions.
Our vision, “From Soil to Plate,” encompasses farmers who are dedicated to the health of their soil and the quality of their produce, sustainable supply networks that prioritize local, environmentally responsible purchasing, as well as informed consumers committed to sustainable food.
A sketch by our Food Program Manager, Murielle Vrins, illustrating Équiterre's vision “From Soil to Plate” (in French)
FROM THE SOIL…
Farmers are on the front lines of the struggle to combat climate change.
They must deal with the harmful effects of the destabilization of the climate on food production. But at the same time, by adopting enlightened farming practices, they can help store carbon in the soil, as soil is a cornerstone of our food system.
Many farmers have already made the choice to operate their farms in an environmentally responsible manner, such as the members of the Family Farmers Network, as well as other conventional farms who are also making the shift.
Alongside our partners in Quebec and Canada, Équiterre is working to support this shift to more resilient, less GHG intensive agricultural practices.
…TO THE PLATE
As consumers, our food choices have a big impact on our food systems. By choosing to buy produce from local organic farms, consumers are encouraging the local economy and shorter supply chains. Shorter distribution networks, fewer middlemen, less packaging... many benefits for the environment, the community and the economy.
Our choices can also be influenced by positive examples around us, such as our public institutions (daycare centres, schools, hospitals and workplaces). In opting for environmentally-responsible local food, these institutions are helping to build sustainable agriculture and food systems. Over 10,000 Quebec institutions are already involved in the movement.
When choosing what ends up on our dinner table, it’s important to look around us and under our feet. Hopefully this whets your appetite and gets you thinking about your next meals.
Wishing you a wonderful harvest season!
Food Program Manager, Équiterre