ICYMI: Growing concern for B.C. fruit, COVID-19 surcharges and more

Major food news stories from the past week that you may have missed

Even though outdoor festivals are cancelled for the near future, Premier Jason Kenney is looking to the future of events in Lethbridge. An investment of $27.8M is going toward the development of the Lethbridge Exhibition Park.

Another province is making a big investment for its future. The Quebec provincial government will be spending $1.2 billion dollars toward its overall goal of reducing the province's greenhouse gas emissions, through the means of providing citizens with compost bins. 

Meanwhile, Maple Leaf Foods is cutting the so-called hero pay to their workers, which resulted in intense backlash from employees who feel that if the pandemic isn't over, their bonus shouldn’t be either. 

Moving from the meat industry to the fruit industry, farmers are afraid of what they could be in for if COVID-19 continues on the same course that it has been on. With reduced production capabilities, farmers are concerned for their bottom line and for food security.

Not only are some workers getting their $2 per hour hazard pay removed, some restaurants are adding two dollars to their bills as a “COVID-tax”.

$27.8M provincial investment towards Lethbridge Exhibition Park

Posted by Exhibition Park Lethbridge on Tuesday, June 30, 2020

There couldn't have been a better time than outdoor festival season for the Alberta government to announce its $27.8M investment on a new agri-food hub for Lethbridge's Exhibition Park. Since 1897, the park has been hosting events that range from its annual fair Whoop-Up days to calf roping, weddings and even monster truck exhibitions. Having such a long presence in Lethbridge is nice for the history books, but has an obvious effect on the condition of the park. With the park consistently reaching capacity and buildings reaching the end of their life, this update is much needed to continue the legacy of the Exhibition Park. 

The money invested in the park will go towards a wide variety of upgrades that benefit different communities. For example, the park's food facility will receive an expansion of 11,200 square feet to allow Lethbridge College's culinary students to have a place to research and train. In addition to this, there will be a new conference space, a new lawn for festivals and outdoor public gatherings and opportunities for local producers. The project is also expected to create 400 jobs in the construction phases, as well as 50 permanent jobs when it is completed. 

Read more about this at CBC.

Quebec to implement compost service as part of a larger environmental plan

You may have been composting for years, or maybe you have been wishing for a compost bin for the same amount of time. In Quebec, all citizens across the province will have access to composting services by 2025. This week, Environment Minister Benoit Charette announced the new  $1.2 billion-strategy, which encompasses composting in all industries, businesses and institutions, and will be implemented in its entirety by 2030. In addition to the composting initiative, they are also moving towards the goal of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 270,000 tonnes per year by 2030. Currently, just over half of the Quebec population has access to composting services. The province currently creates 5.8 million tonnes of waste per year, which consists of 60 per cent of organic matter. 

Read more about this plan at CTV news

Maple Leaf Foods reduces workers pay by $80 per week

After the outcry of thousands of grocery workers hit the news when it was announced that their hazard pay was being revoked, the focus is now turning towards Maple Leaf Foods workers, whose hazard pay will be revoked as of July. This hazard pay totaled to about $80 per week. Workers at the plant say that it is a dramatic change in attitude towards how they felt just five months ago when the pandemic first hit Canada. They received t-shirts that read, "Not all heroes wear capes," and truly felt as though they were appreciated, especially with the $2 hourly raise. Maple Leaf Foods said that they had already kept the so-called "hero pay" longer than anticipated. As a response, the workers at the Hamilton location returned their hero shirts as a statement. 

Read more at CBC.

B.C. fruit growers are concerned for the future

There has been a focus on the beef industry in Canada during COVID-19 due to outbreaks, but a lesser known industry that has been facing the consequences of COVID-19 is B.C. fruit growers. According to a survey of 60 growers conducted by the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, more than 67 per cent of farmers have had to reduce their fruit production due to uncertainties related to COVID-19. In addition to lowered output, 87 per cent of farmers worry they won’t have enough hired labour to bring in the already reduced crops that they do decide to grow. Reducing the amount of product they produce is not only cutting into the farmer's bottom line, but is also a real threat to food security and food cost for consumers as there will be less fresh fruit hitting grocery store shelves. To understand the importance of the fruit growing industry on B.C.'s economy, B.C.‘s interior tree fruit industry currently represents 800 growers with a wholesale revenue of $118 million. 

Read more about this from Global News.

Restaurant receives backlash from COVID-19 surcharge

With restaurants reopening across the country, diners expect to see changes such as reduced capacities, longer wait times and distanced tables. But, an unexpected change has hit a restaurant in Montreal, and diners are not pleased. This change is aptly called the COVID-19 surcharge. One restaurant, Pizzeria Napoletana in Montreal’s Little Italy, is just one of the restaurants adding this surcharge to the bottom of their bill for things like extra packaging for items to be individually wrapped. Even though the charge was noted on the menu and upon guests arrival, one guest took to social media to air their displeasure and the restaurant was forced to scrap the fee. Other businesses are forgoing the charge to help them maintain their relationship with their clientele, as they aren't sure that the $2 to $3 surcharge will make a difference in their bottom lines.

Read more about this story from Citytv Winnipeg.