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Local hospital food big plank in NDP agriculture platform

The NDP's Lana Popham, incumbent candidate in Saanich South, dropped in on the Vancouver food policy council meeting last night to promote her party's agriculture plan.

Popham -- who has served as agriculture critic since elected in 2009 -- focused on the NDP's commitment to require B.C. hospitals to spend 30 per cent of their food budgets on provincially-grown product.

This "massive shift in spending" would begin with a $1 million pilot program within Interior Health, said Popham, which would shift local purchasing from about eight or nine per cent (where it currently stands now) to 30 per cent over four years.

Popham also announced that, if elected, the NDP would change the name of the agriculture ministry to "ministry of agriculture and sustainable food systems."

"It may be a symbolic change on some letterhead," said Popham, "But we think this really puts the message out that we think agriculture is not a piecemeal plan anymore, it's a whole system."

The NDP has been courting farmers for months leading up to the election.

Last November, Popham and party leader Adrian Dix toured farms across the province touting their party's commitment to bolstering the sector in B.C.

In February, Dix announced his party would create a $7.5 million grant program for the tree fruit industry, an idea proposed by the BC Fruit Growers Association last year.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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