Kamloops-North Thompson MLA and Health Minister Terry Lake had to explain last week in the Legislature why one of the province's hospitals is serving "plastic fruit cups from China" instead of B.C. fresh produce. The question was posed by Saanich Suth NDP MLA Lana Popham.
Watch the video or read the draft text from the B.C. Hansard for Thursday, July 28's afternoon sitting:
L. Popham: It's a wonderful time of year for agriculture in B.C. Harvests are coming in. Farmers markets are overflowing. Sales are being made, and B.C. consumers are enjoying an incredible bounty of choice. It's not the lazy days of summer for farmers. They are at their busiest.
Madame Speaker: Members, members. The Chair will hear the question.
L. Popham: The Okanagan, represented by both the Premier and the Minister of Agriculture, is boasting an incredible season of fruit.
Given this bounty, can the Minister of Agriculture tell me why patients at their Vanderhoof hospital are being served fruit from China?
Hon. T. Lake: There is no question that B.C.'s agricultural sector is enjoyed across the world. In fact, over 200 commodities are exported around the world. We recognize that using local products in our health care facilities does provide important health, economic and environmental benefits to British Columbians.
Because of this, health authorities across the province do provide a variety of local products whenever possible. For example, all contracted food providers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are using local food sources, like chicken, eggs, beef and in-season produce.
The Ministry of Health also funds a variety of programs that support British Columbians' access to fresh fruit and healthy local foods, including the farmers market nutrition coupon program — one that is very popular — the school fruit-and-vegetable nutritional program and the farm-to-schools B.C. program.
The Health Ministry and the health authorities believe in local products and use them whenever possible.
Madame Speaker: Member for Saanich South on a supplemental.
L. Popham: The Minister of Health can dice it, chop it, slice it, dehydrate it, freeze it or blend it anyway he wants, but it won't make plastic fruit cups from China any more appetizing in the B.C. hospital system.
When are the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Health and the Premier going to start supporting B.C. farmers and B.C. food processors?
Hon. T. Lake: Whereas British Columbia does have over 200 agricultural products, not all food that people like to enjoy are practicably grown here in B.C. There is a wide variety of food choices that are prepared, but all health authorities make great efforts…
Madame Speaker: Please continue.
Hon. T. Lake: …to source food whenever it is practicable.
Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence have the following food contracts with companies that use local food sources. Gordon Food Service is their primary food distributor. They use local eggs. They use hothouse produce, fresh produce when in season, Island Farms, and milk from the Fraser Valley.
The examples across the province are countless on the ways in which health authorities are using local products from British Columbia.