Be Prepared: Food could be a premium in state of disaster

Black Press Media takes a look at emergency preparedness in Greater Victoria in this special report

This is part six of a special eight-part report done by Black Press Media on emergency preparedness in Greater Victoria. Find the series online at vicnews.com/tag/greater-victoria-emergency-preparedness.

In the event of a disaster, food supplies will dwindle and possibly run out.

“We live on an island … we have to realize our food is not all grown here or raised here,” said Robert Janus, Victoria Foundation’s director of communications. “You need to be thinking of everybody in your orbit.”

He stressed the importance of taking an active role as individuals and collectively in preparing for a disaster. Whether that’s creating stockpiles or regularly replenishing supplies, Janus noted it’s important for those in the community who are able to also help plan for vulnerable individuals or families facing food insecurity.

Nine per cent of households in Greater Victoria reported being food insecure over a 12-month period in 2015-16, according to the Victoria Foundation’s vital signs report. In B.C., 16 per cent of children under the age of 18 were living in food-insecure households during the same time period.

Local organizations are working to enhance the region’s food security in a variety of ways including reducing food waste by getting it to the people who need it and enhancing support for local producers.

The Victoria Foundation’s food security fund supports projects helping to reduce hunger and facilitate connections between vulnerable people and neighbourhood-based programs. The Victoria Foundation also has an emergency preparedness fund, a resource to get local charities and non-profits back up and running so they can continue to serve the community in a time of need.

This summer, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture also announced funding for a $50,000 feasibility study exploring a food processing hub in the region. This hub will connect local food producers and processors with specialized equipment, expertise and space to grow their businesses while providing greater food sustainability for the region, explains the Foundation, a proponent of the study, along with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and Mustard Seed.

READ MORE: $50,000 feasibility study coming for CRD food–processing hub

While residents often hear the Island has a three-day food supply, it’s a statistic that’s hard to quantify for a number of reasons.

“It’s an area where there is not sufficient planning done right now,” said Linda Geggie, who studies food systems as the executive director of the Capital Regional Food and Agriculture Initiatives.

Which is why all of the regional emergency programs strongly recommend storing a minimum of seven days worth of food and water, said Maegan Thompson from Saanich’s emergency program.

Victor Seymour and Braeden Mail of Islands West food distributors make an early morning drop off in front of Red Barn Market on Oak Bay Avenue.(Travis Paterson/News Staff)

It goes without saying, food is a crucial part of the emergency kit, Thompson added.

Eileen Grant, Oak Bay’s emergency programs manager, noted being prepared is not about sealing away seven days of non-perishables in a tub. Rather, it’s about ensuring there is always seven days worth of food in the house.

“A lot of people already have a week’s worth of food,” Grant said. “We were telling people to put it in a bin, store it away, but we found people were forgetting about it, only to open up a tub of expired food two years or five years later.”

Being prepared can also be as simple as keeping canned goods on hand with the rest of regular food supplies and ensuring there’s a way to cook if the power (or natural gas) is out.

READ MORE: Be prepared emergency series

Janus noted it’s also important for residents to recognize where their water supply is coming from and have a backup if municipal lines fail.

Most of the region’s water comes from the Sooke Lake reservoir via the Capital Regional District (CRD). The CRD uses gravity to pump water to local municipal lines. However, municipal distribution systems rely on pump stations to pressurize various zones throughout service areas, said Ted Robbins, who manages the CRD’s integrated water systems.

The main regional water treatment plant does have standby power generators, as do some municipal pump stations. But backup power is only helpful if the water lines manage to escape damage, and damage is anticipated during a major earthquake.

What’s in store?

Vancouver Island has about 762 hectares in vegetable crops (according to the 2016 census of agriculture) and two per cent of B.C.’s farms. In terms of livestock, the Island has below five per cent of the province’s totals for chicken, beef, and pigs. But, combined with the Gulf Islands, the Island does have 22 per cent of the province’s sheep.

-With files from Jen Blyth

Pick up your Be Ready guide at Black Press newspaper offices or find it online at vicnews.com/e-editions.

READ MORE: Are you ready for an emergency? Here’s how to prepare in 5 easy steps

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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