It was great to recently learn that government will finally be implementing a program to allow big game hunters to donate all or a portion of their meat to local food banks. This is an initiative that Barry Fordham and a number of other hunting enthusiasts have been advocating for in our province for a long time, and they certainly deserve our collective appreciation for their efforts. It is also important that we acknowledge our government for not only listening, but indeed acting in this particular circumstance.
Food security and the plight of our most vulnerable is certainly not a new concept to our community, but it has definitely been highlighted this year, starting with Snowmageddon and then transitioning directly into COVID-19. It has clearly shone a light on the disparity between those that have and those that have not, and the dire need to narrow that gap. And while this new initiative is definitely a step in the right direction, there is still much more that can and should be done.
Why not allocate a portion of our agriculture lands for social enterprise, providing direct employment, teaching skills, as well as providing meaningful opportunities under government’s long standing Job Creation Partnerships program?
So, what are some other tangible steps that can be taken to fill not just the shelves of the food banks but also the refrigerators and freezers? Here are just a few thoughts that come to mind.
First of all, while we are starting out with big game meat, is there an opportunity to incorporate small game animals? After all, there are plenty of rabbits, game birds on land and sea, and of course we can’t forget about the millions of seals that are systematically destroying our fish stocks.
Speaking of fish, how appalling is it to see thousands and thousands of tons of fish dumped over the sides of vessels as bycatch, a practice that is actually illegal in other jurisdictions of the world. Surely there must be a way for us to convince our federal government to bring an end to this atrocity and allow us to utilize this valuable resource to feed the hungry in our province. For that matter, in addition to the bycatch, why not also allocate a quota of various species for this purpose? After all, this is a common resource which need not be for the exclusive benefit of harvesters, processors and foreign interests.
Of course, we can also look to both the aquaculture and agriculture sectors to help feed those in need throughout our province. This is where the concept of social enterprise can fit nicely within our food security structure. Why not allocate a portion of our agriculture lands for social enterprise, providing direct employment, teaching skills, as well as providing meaningful opportunities under government’s long standing Job Creation Partnerships program? This could include the growing of root crops and berries and even the raising of beef, poultry, pork and lamb.
The bottom line is that there is much that can be done by capitalizing on our underutilized resources and existing government programs. And it can be done at a low cost to the taxpayer, arguably cost neutral when you factor in the benefits to our health, education and justice system by the elimination of poverty in our province.
There is no reason not to do this other than the political will to do so. I therefore call upon our government to start thinking outside the box, start doing things differently, and let’s see where it takes us. One thing we know for sure is that the status quo is not working, particularly as it relates to the most vulnerable among us.
Paul Lane, Independent MHA
District of Mount Pearl-Southlands