On October 28th, 17 local government representatives (politicians and staff) from across the RDNO met on Zoom to discuss and learn what is on the radar for local government as it relates to local food security and food systems (planning, development, policy).
This meeting was co-hosted by Land to Table (L2T) and the Interior Health (IH) Healthy Communities Program, with the intent to build relationships with local government, provide a (virtual) networking space, and share about each of our organizations/programs and the support that we can offer to local government in food systems and food security engagement, planning and project development.
In the work of L2T, to catalyze connections and collaboration and make sense of how we can best support strengthening our regional food system, this meeting was designed to help build a picture of the local food matters that are top of mind for local government now.
The Roundtable provided an opportunity:
For example, many meeting participants were really impressed by what the Enderby Harvest Sharing Hut is achieving, to make fresh nutritious food more available in the community, especially for seniors, and to reduce food waste. This ongoing project highlights how local government can support grassroots food initiatives to make local, fresh food more accessible.
There were many topics covered in our conversation, ranging from climate change adaptations, supporting local food and agricultural skills development (for school age-children and the ag. community), to interest in increasing regional processing infrastructure.
The main themes that jumped out from conversation included:
With many municipalities interested in ways to empower individuals to take control of their individual food security where possible—e.g. offering home gardening skills development or services to access emergency food and fresh produce—others are looking at opportunities through the use of bylaws to, for example, protect agricultural land. Most, certainly the Regional District, are very aware of changes required in meat regulations to support and bolster small-scale meat producers to be able to grow their businesses and supply increasing consumer demand for local, sustainable, happy protein.
Many on the call were keen to meet again in this way, to connect over the topic of food (systems and security) that increasingly overlaps with daily planning and decision-making. In that sense, we hope that this Local Government Roundtable is the first of many conversations to come.
The release of the Okanagan Bioregion Food Systems Study (to be released in the new year) presents an opportunity for further conversation. The research study is designed to be a tool for decision-makers and provides data-driven information for a systems approach to local and bioregional food systems planning. For example, a detailed policy analysis outlines five areas for food policy focus, including:
An article shared with the Roundtable (see page 21), written by KPU’s Kristi Tatebe (and others), states that “more comprehensive food systems planning often requires the consideration of resources and processes beyond the jurisdiction of a single local government… thus requiring collaborative planning processes”.
A single jurisdiction cannot be expected to undertake food system solutions on their own. As we continue to build a picture of what a strong and vibrant regional food system looks like—where the needs/gaps, challenges and opportunities lie—we hope that this conversation starter represents the beginning of an opportunity to work collaboratively toward a food system that works toward community, economic and environmental well-being in the North Okanagan and Okanagan bioregion as a whole.