New report asks Nelson council to tackle food security
A local food security group is recommending that the city form a municipal food council, consisting of a councillor and other people involved in food production and distribution.
But Mayor Deb Kozak is not prepared to just say yes.
“We will be discussing how we as a municipality will become involved in these issues,” she said when the recommendation was presented to the December 22 council meeting, which was a Committee of the Whole meeting at which council hears presentations but does not make decisions.
“It is a struggle for local governments to be involved in all social issues,” she said. “We have a housing committee, and are dealing with those social issues on a committee level, so this is another layer, and we will have to discuss how we can best support it.”
The 2014 Food Security Assessment was presented to council by former councillor Candace Batycki and Nelson Food Cupboard Coordinator Marya Skrypiczajko. It is an analysis of the city’s food security assets and gaps, along with recommendations, developed through community consultations carried out in September.
The report can be found by clicking on the Food Security Assessment link on the left side of the page here.
The city did not fund the study, which was carried out with grants from the Province of British Columbia (Healthy Communities Capacity Building Grant program), the Osprey Community Foundation and the Kootenay Co-op.
The report contains other recommendations including:
- Municipal leaders advocate for a strong, local food system at all levels of government and to all audiences.
- Create a community food centre where food security organizations could share resources, network and be accessible to the public.
- Develop municipal policies that support food production, storage and distribution in Nelson (including allowing the keeping of bees and hens in the city)
- Develop infrastructure to support farmers and value added businesses.
- Increase access to affordable, fresh and healthy food for vulnerable populations. Improve coordination for strategic investments in food security and food
- systems priorities.
- Create an economic development fund for local agriculture.
- Offer multi-year funding opportunities and more than one intake period each year.
Batycki pointed out that Nelson’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and its Path to 2040 plan both call for attention to food security.
The report contains a detailed inventory of food security assets including farmers’ markets, natural food retail co-ops, kitchen spaces, municipal greenhouses, value-added small businesses, public gardens, farms, food access services for people living in poverty, food skills education programs for seniors and youth, and food systems experts.
Councillor Bob Adams asked the presenters what they mean by a community food centre.
“Were you looking for an office,” he asked, “or somewhere where you could store food? How big is this? Because if it is just an office, there is plenty of room this building where you could set up an office where people could come and you could have meetings.”
“Ideally a community food centre includes space for the vulnerable populations to come in and be involved in programs,” Skrypiczajko said in response. “The idea of a lot of programs happening in one place is that the overlap improves participation rates so somebody would come in and use the food bank and then they would get interested in some of the other programs that would help give them healthier lives.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo said a renovated farmers’ market could serve that function. And he said other levels of governments should improve social program funding.
Councillor Michael Dailly responded positively to the report.
“If we do step forward and put together a municipal food council, a lot of the work has already been done with this report. We have a running start,” he said.
Bill Metcalfe is a freelance journalist who covers Nelson City Hall for The Nelson Daily. To receive a regular twice-monthly email with links to his most recent city hall stories, send a request notification to email@example.com.