In British Columbia’s heartland, healthy food can be surprisingly hard to find

From Colleen Kimmett, writing for the Tyee:

Once a breadbasket, Bella Coola hosts a Community Supported Agriculture project. "The project opened up a lot of people's eyes to growing more food here. Bella Coola used to be the breadbasket for the Central Coast. That has all faded away -- but the potential is still there."

“It’s a good day in Dease Lake when a produce truck breaks down on the Cassiar highway.

For residents in and around this remote northern community, fresh produce can be hard to come by, especially in the winter.

So when there’s an accident, word goes out and people salvage what they can from the trailer before everything rots, according to Christine Glennie-Visser, regional co-ordinator for the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) network in northern B.C.

“These are average, regular people,” she says. “But what happens in these isolated communities is when the fresh produce arrives, it’s descended upon. . . sometimes produce only comes in once or twice a month.”

Even amidst scary reports about the cost of skyrocketing food prices and looming shortages, it’s hard for most North Americans to fathom what it would be like to find supermarket shelves bare.

But for residents in some of B.C.’s most rural and remote communities, it’s not so hard to imagine.


The combination of higher food prices and fewer stores with fresh healthy options is partly what contributes to higher rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes seen in these communities. (Taylor, B.C., the subject of CBC’s new Village on a Diet series, for example, has only a convenience store and a fast-food joint at which to buy food.)

It is, in effect, a food desert: a troubling phenomenon that has been studied in urban areas like Detroit and Los Angeles, but much less so in rural areas, according to Deepthi Jayatilaka, provincial manager for food security at the Provincial Health Service Authority.

High prices, vast distances

Generally, a food desert is defined as not having a food outlet within walking distance or within reach of public transportation, says Jayatilaka.

“When you think about a lot of the people in more rural and remote communities, they travel distances of sometimes two hours to get to a grocery store,” she says. “We also know that in most remote areas, public transport is almost unheard of. That becomes a significant limitation.”…”

Read it all on The Tyee.

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