October has brought stunning autumnal colours to Kelowna. Yet, for me, it has also revealed a huge paradox on campus. While we are surrounded by farms in full harvest, students purchasing habits on campus does not reflect this. Reaching 12,000 hectares, agriculture takes 55% of Kelowna’s land base and yet, it is not bags from farmers’ markets that students are carrying when getting off the bus; we are coming back to campus with plastic bags filled with bargains from Walmart and Save On Foods. It begs the question: why do students feel they can't eat local produce?
The obvious student stereotype would suggest that maybe eating locally doesn’t fit our budget. While buying local produce may be preferable, the reality is that most of us may not be able to afford it. When the choice is between saving some pennies or choosing to eat local, it would appear that the latter is losing. However, is this a valid argument?
I spoke to Professor Mary Stockdale who teaches Geography, and more specifically a course on food systems at UBCO. She explained how the price between vegetables from a local source compared to a commercial was not all that different. Using kale as an example, she commented on how there would actually be little difference financially between procuring it from Walmart or the Farmers’ Market. The issue lies in where students look at buying processed over fresh food. These products are often much cheaper while being not as beneficial for you. But, sadly, the allure of saving that little extra can often determine our purchases.
It’s all very well to state an issue, but it is important to acknowledge the little steps we can do to improve this. My interview with Mary Stockdale surprised me in how many resources there are to help students eat locally. An issue she addressed in regards to why students don't eat locally is that there simply isn't knowledge of how to do so. The most accessible way for students to eat is the cafeterias on Campus. With the obvious exception of Tim Horton’s and Starbucks, they all aim to source local food in their meal options. In EMEats for example, 36% of the menu available is locally sourced.
For those who wish to cook their own food, there are further options. The Kelowna Farmers’ Market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, selling fresh local produce at reasonable prices. If getting to the market is unrealistic for your class schedule, Project Roots through Farmbound have a fruit and vegetable box that gets delivered to EME every Monday; for $20 you can receive a plentiful amount of produce deemed not suitable for commercial buyers purely because of a few bumps or bruises.
As the weather temperature drops there is also a Winter Market downtown held indoors which ensures that eating locally isn't dependant on seasons.
The term “brain food” is often overlooked. However, for students it is essential. Eating fresh, healthy produce and fuelling our bodies correctly increases academic productivity. In most cases they are simple swaps that not only support local producers but benefit our learning too. Though there are many resources to aid our ability to eat locally, it sadly seems evident that, more often than not, the main obstacle is ourselves.