Last week, Vancouver City Council unanimously approved a long-term food strategy aimed at bringing more "sustainable and just" food policies to this very urban landscape. The strategy was the brainchild of the Vancouver Food Policy Council, members of the public and city councillors and includes five goals to help support sustainability and access to food for Vancouver residents.
The goals are:
- Support food-friendly neighbourhoods
- Empower residents to take action
- Improve access to healthy, affordable, culturally diverse food for all residents
- Make food a centrepiece of Vancouver's green economy
- Advocate for a just and sustainable food system with partners and at all levels of government.
The fact that the strategy was passed without any opposition, and that the public was involved in determining the objectives of the strategy (via a series of consultations called Talk Food with Us) leads one to hope that the future of food in Vancouver is buffered from some of the threats that loom over the global food system. Sustainable growing techniques, low-impact distribution and responsible food disposal would help fulfill some of the city's rhetoric on becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.
The policy is comprehensive and the 150-page document addresses many of the socio-economic factors that affect who gets the food and how. The rallying words are all there, "support", "empower", "advocate" and it is somewhat comforting to see that there is at least a recognition that a healthy city starts with healthy citizens. There is a long way to go in Vancouver, according to the report, In my neighbourhood alone (Grandview-Woodland), 22 per cent of residents face food insecurity, in the Downtown Eastside, the number increases to two thirds.
The ideas that the policy presents are good ideas: encouraging isolated groups to have input in their food choices; allowing farmers to sell their produce from their plots at harvest rather than joining a market; improving access to composting; creating more local options with more city orchards and urban farms and so on.
But ideas are just ideas and policy does not equal action. The policy itself says that it "provides a roadmap" and can "identify gaps and prioritize actions". But in order for this well-meaning initiative to take place, there is going to have to be considerable investment in resources to see this plan through.
You can download the full policy here.
And you can follow me on Twitter for #FoodSecurity news @Elecia_C.