From Community Garden to Farm and Table
The Status of Food Security in our City
I believe that all Edmontonians have the right to physical, social, and economic access to fresh, nutritious food. This is an important part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle and reflects our healthy communities.
Many folks face food insecurity through social, financial, or even geographical barriers. I developed the Food and Agri-Business Diversification Initiative to explore programs and services the City can provide, or partner with, to bring fresh, local food to Edmontonians right at home in our neighbourhoods. No one should have to travel long distances by car or transit just to put food on their tables.
Why is food security so important?
Put simply, food insecurity affects physical and mental health, relationships with family, peers, and our children. But there are deeper impacts too. Limited access to safe, healthy foods increases social isolation, creates barriers to finding and maintaining employment, and affects the way we share or connect with our culture.
After oil and gas, agriculture is our biggest GDP industry and economic driver in Alberta and Edmonton is, at its heart, a city built on farming and agriculture.
In March of 2020 it was reported that Food Bank use increased by 20%. In Alberta, food banks recorded over 89,000 visits, with more than 35,282 of them being children. This is a local problem–it requires a “homegrown” solution.
In my time on Council I’ve pushed forward on policies and motions that led the City to adopt a new approach to food security and diversification of local food production. Some of that work includes:
- Removing zoning/construction barriers to community gardens
- Working with Community Leagues to provide community gardening spaces, plant boxes, tools, and educational programs
- Developed a Community Composting Pilot to provide education, access, and composting opportunities within local communities.
- Lifting the cap on Urban Hens reducing red tape for licensing for chickens and urban beekeeping
- Bringing Fresh Routes: Mobile Food Market to the North East increasing local access to affordable, fresh produce
- Exploring Alternative Landscape Options for Boulevards and Turf to replace grass with native flowers and food producing plants
- Removed barriers for commercial kitchen start ups and secured funding for the C5 Community Kitchen–helping new business entrepreneurs in the NE
The guiding principles of my Food and Agri-Business initiative are now embedded as a key pillar in the City’s Economic Action Plan: our guidebook to building a vibrant, inclusive City with a thriving sustainable economy.
So how do I plan to keep this work going?
With your help, here are some of the goal’s I want to achieve in the coming years:
- Work on developing a regional supercluster with a focus on supporting greenhouse food production in the North East
- Advocate for an end to restrictive covenants: a legal device corporations use to ensure no competitor opens a similar business on their former properties creating what are known as “food deserts” in communities
- Reduce barriers for food selling permits and business licenses to sell fruits/vegetables other products direct from your property
- Prioritizing agricultural land use over residential development to further reduce urban sprawl in the North East and reduce our carbon impact.
- Fight to bring local food options and small businesses to the Northeast through our 15-minute neighbourhoods helping all of us live more locally and ensuring access to immediate needs and amenities 15 minutes from your home.
Food security is an economic and community priority. I will commit to support local food production, urban agriculture initiatives, community gardens, and access to farmers markets so our neighbours can get the healthy, safe nutrients they deserve.