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Northern Man. communities boost food production

Provincial support for food production in remote northern Manitoba communities has paid off in terms of food self-sufficiency, the province reported Thursday.

“Healthy foods should be a part of everyone’s diet but these items are expensive in the north,” Northern Affairs Minister Oscar Lathlin said Thursday at a food security forum in Thompson, Man.

“Since we launched the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative in 2005, more than 400 vegetable gardens have been planted in communities all over the north and some residents are now raising their own animals as well as using freezers to preserve locally harvested wildlife products.”

The province said it will fund the initiative in 2008-09 with increased grants totalling more than $600,000, thus leveraging support from other sources and participation from local residents and numerous organizations.

Lathlin said in a release that the initiative now includes 28 communities and its goal is to expand to six to eight more communities in the northwest, with new partners now on board.

The initiative has helped fund the purchase of about 160 freezers, the construction of eight greenhouses and support for 15 families involved in chicken and goat farming, the province said.

Among other goals, the initiative is meant to boost food self-sufficiency; provide supplies such as seed and fertilizer and other key supplies; provide nutrition education combining traditional and modern gardening and food preparation techniques; promote traditional harvesting and preservation of wild foods; and reduce imports of expensive and low-nutrition foods.

“It may seem like a small thing to grow vegetables in a plot of land that is tiny by comparison to large modern farms in the south, but to people in the north, this can bring a huge improvement to their lives,” Lathlin said.

Supporters have included the Manitoba Food Charter, the Hudson Bay Neighbours Regional Round Table, the Northern Association of Community Councils, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Heifer International, along with a number of provincial government departments. Partners on the healthy food projects have included the Bayline Regional Roundtable, the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority, the Northern Association of Community Councils and the Frontier School Division, with contributions by communities and federal departments.

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