The City of Vancouver defines a just and sustainable food system as one in which food production, processing, distribution , consumption and waste management are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional well-being of our city and its residents.”
Vancouver Food Strategy – page 10, January 2013
The spectre of food insecurity is a reality for many people, even in the wealthiest countries. In a recent Times Colonist articles, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, and a senior fellow with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, notes:
Hunger is horrid, an undesirable state few deliberately choose. We know that over 800 million suffer from hunger around the globe. In the western world, hunger surrounds us without knowing that it’s there. It’s estimated that four million Canadians experience food insecurity regularly. Hunger is cruelly invisible and unfairly discriminatory. Women, the disabled, Indigenous and people living in northern communities are disproportionally hungry compared with the average Canadian. Despite having access to one of the more affordable food baskets in the world, relative to household income, vulnerable populations in Canada are severely affected by hunger. But while hunger is a real issue, there’s little evidence that food is becoming increasingly scarce in the world. In fact, never in history has the supply of food per capita been greater than in the past three decades.
Dr. Charlebois continues by arguing that while Canadians may want to understand the mechanisms of how food makes its way through the production, processing, and distribution process, we are mostly food illiterate. Very few of us have been to a working farm, much less lived on one. We live in a complex world where time has become a scarce resource. We look for convenience in food. Even though we love to watch cooking shows, we spend less time in the kitchen.
In a world that is experiencing climate change, resource depletion, growing inequity, and loss of farmland, we have the opportunity and duty to become involved in food.
How is Vancouver responding? Vancouver’s ambitious food strategy to create a just and sustainable food system for economic, environmental economic, and health goals, was approved on January 20, 2013. The Food Strategy responds to the Vancouver’s food challenges and aligns the food system with broader City plans and processes through five main goals.
GOAL 1: Support food-friendly neighbourhoods Food-friendly neighbourhoods provide residents with access to healthy foods and ways to sustainably dispose of food waste.
GOAL 2: Empower residents to take action. The most effective community food systems are shaped by the people who live there.
GOAL 3: Improve access to healthy, affordable, culturally diverse food for all residents Access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and affordable food is fundamental to health and equality, especially to vulnerable populations.
GOAL 4: Make food a centerpiece of a green economy.
GOAL 5: Advocate for a just and sustainable food system.
The overall local food target is to increase city and neighbourhood food assets by 50 per cent by the year 2020. Examples of food assets include community gardens and orchards, urban farms, farmers markets, food processing infrastructure, community composting facilities, and neighbourhood food networks.
We are one year away from the target year, 2020. How are we doing? The first place to look is City Hall. Join me as I meander through City Hall’s vibrant and productive community garden, a confirmation that there is genuine enthusiasm for our food strategy. One gardener said, “I see this is as a labour of love. I spend many hours in my garden and enjoy every minute.”
“Food is an important part of all our lives whether it’s through the meals we prepare, the food we grow, composting or taking part in community food celebrations.”
Vancouver Food Strategy