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City's first food security report card highlights successes, challenges in the region

THUNDER BAY -- Food security in the region has come a long way in a short amount of time but there's still a lot of room for growth.
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Food Action network chair Catherine Schwartz-Mendez (Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY -- Food security in the region has come a long way in a short amount of time but there's still a lot of room for growth.

That's according to the first ever Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy Community Food Security Report Card, presented to city council Monday night.

"It's a way of thinking about all aspects of ou rfood system from production to disposal," Food Action network chair Catherine Schwartz-Mendez said of the report card.

The biggest challenge outlined in the report card is the amount of people who don't have access to healthy food. Income inequality results in around 10 per cent of households are forced to choose between healthy eating and paying the bills. 

"People on social assistance compromise what they eat so they can afford to live," Schwartz-Mendez said.

The report does highlight a number of initiatives in the city, from student nutrition programs to mobile markets, trying to address the problem.

Consumer demand for local food is on the rise food strategy coordinator Kendal Donhaue said. It's to the point where the longterm trend of less farming on less land in the region is starting to see a change.

"Slowly this is reversing," she said.

With more demand from everyday customers to restaurants to institutions like the city, there could be a problem soon because the area doesn't have processing and distribution in place. Donahue said the strategy is working with the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to develop a market study on the potential infrastructure gaps.

It's also working with Confederation College to possibly develop a farmer training program as demand for local food continues to grow. The report card is available here