IT could be one of the most universal issues in an election campaign: behind every voter at the ballot box, there is a hungry tummy.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/9/2011 (3612 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IT could be one of the most universal issues in an election campaign: behind every voter at the ballot box, there is a hungry tummy.

And so, on Monday night, candidates from each of the three major political parties sat down at the Free Press News Cafe to debate their party's platform on everything from agricultural policy to helping improve access to food for the 60,000 Manitobans who rely on food banks.

It was the first time a Manitoba provincial election debate focused on food, and the café was packed with observers. "In the last municipal election, we saw a lot of growth in interest," said Stefan Epp, who co-ordinated the event for Food Matters Manitoba. "It's an exciting development. There's a phenomenal level of interest in wanting to know everything from do-it-yourself skills to things like food policy."

This time around, Food Matters Manitoba has partnered with other food-issues organizations to launch I Vote Because Food Matters, a project to keep food policy alive in the campaign. The project has a website (Votefoodmanitoba.ca), which explores the parties' platforms on agriculture and food-security issues.

"We can take some of the politics out of food," said Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, who represented the Tories at the debate. "It's something that's important to everybody. It's not a partisan issue."

But politics didn't stay out of the debate for long: minutes into the debate, Goertzen and NDP Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh traded shots on the tug-of-war over the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. Later, the pair squared off on the minimum wage.

Troy Osiname, the Liberal candidate for Seine River, spoke of Liberal support for increasing community gardening programs and developing undefined partnerships with farmers and grocery stores to shore up access to healthy food in low-income and northern communities.