Food Miles Book Club: Self-Reliance

As mentioned in our January 20, 2011 blog post, we’re bringing our book club discussions online.

At a recent Food Action Committee meeting, we discussed two chapters of the “Is Nova Scotia Eating Local?” report: Self-reliance and Distance Traveled & Emissions of a Food Basket.  You can read the full chapters here and summaries of the chapters below.

What do you think about food self reliance in Nova Scotia?
What percentage of your diet is locally produced?
What would help you to increase your local food purchases?

At the national level, Statistics Canada data show that over the last four decades, food imports are rising relative to net supply. At the regional level, grocery store data show that most of the food in stores is imported from outside Atlantic Canada. At the provincial level, we know that in 2008 at most, 13% of the food dollar is being earned by Nova Scotia farmers (Figure 1). Over the last 11 years, this proportion has gone down. In 1997 it was 17%.

We also calculated production divided by consumption for vegetables, fruit and meat in Nova Scotia. Given the various calculations of self-reliance for Nova Scotia, there is a general downward trend in self-reliance (outside of supply managed commodities). However, the numbers also indicate great potential for producing more of our food – if it was economically viable to do so.

Distance Traveled & Emissions of a Food Basket
In order to calculate the distance food is traveling, we chose to use the National Nutritious Food Basket (NNFB) tool. The NNFB contains 66 food items, from 11 different food groupings which reflect the eating habits of Canadians, as well, these foods, in appropriate combinations and amounts, were designed to meet the nutritional needs of Canadians according to the 1992 Canada Food Guide.

The average distance traveled by NNFB food items is 3,976 km.

When a weekly diet is considered, the weekly basket of goods travels a total distance of 30,666 km and emits 5.911 kg CO2e. The distances and GHG emissions for a theoretical “all-local NNFB basket” were also calculated. To maintain continuity, we estimated 350 km for travel within the province for all local foods. The theoretical, all-local basket is approximately a sixth of the distance and emissions: 4988 km and 1.017 kg CO2e.

There is potential for reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions by switching to more local fruits and vegetables, provided that the fruit and vegetable crops are produced by methods that are of similar or increased energy efficiency compared with imports. Though not included in the NNFB, we produce large quantities of blueberries, as well as variety of tree fruits and berries. We also produce a wide variety of horticultural crops. With low-energy season extension techniques, cold storage, processing and preserving – at both the industrial level and the household level – there is a lot of potential to increase local fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the year.

For foods that we cannot easily produce here, we should promote more energy-efficient modes of transportation, i.e. rail, or consider local alternatives, if they exist, e.g. honey and maple syrup in place of sugar.

One thought on “Food Miles Book Club: Self-Reliance

  1. Pingback: Food Miles Book Club: Energy and Transportation « Adventures in Local Food

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