March 9, 2011, Ottawa – Horticulture can improve the health of Canadians on many levels.
That was the theme of a networking reception hosted on Parliament Hill yesterday by members of the Horticulture Value Chain Round Table, which includes farmers, retailers, food processors and input suppliers.
“Eating a healthy and diversified diet rich in fruits and vegetables is an important part of keeping Canadians healthy and keeping our healthcare costs under control,” says Brian Gilroy, chairperson of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
“Children in particular need to establish a healthy diet and active lifestyle habits early on in order to maintain those habits throughout their lives.”
The “Hort for Health” event drew approximately 150 Members of Parliament, including cabinet ministers, as well as government staff and agriculture and food industry representatives. The goal was to raise awareness of the impact healthy eating – particularly fruits and vegetables – can have on the health of Canadians and on our national healthcare system.
Obesity-related health care costs Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars each year ($4.3 billion in 2004). In Ontario alone, the provincial government was expected to spend approximately 46 per cent of its total budget on health care in 2010.
Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle may reduce the risk of some types of chronic diseases, promote healthier body weights and help improve the well-being of Canadians.
Canadian children in particular are not meeting their daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables and childhood obesity has become a significant issue of concern.
“We are very lucky in this country to have a diverse and extensive horticulture production sector that can grow a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for Canadians,” says Gilroy. “In order to realize the full benefit, however, all Canadians need to have access to the great produce we’re growing.”
The OFVGA is one of Ontario’s oldest commodity organizations and serves as the voice of the province’s 7,500 fruit, vegetable and greenhouse vegetable farmers. The sector supports 30,000 on-farm jobs in rural Ontario, as well as a further 8,700 jobs specific to horticulture and specialty crops.