Municipal food policy: How do we get where we want to go?

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 | Comments Off on Municipal food policy: How do we get where we want to go?

Municipal food policy: How do we get where we want to go?

How do we get where we want to go with municipal food policy? What do we do once policy is in place? These were some of the overarching themes of the BC Food Systems Network’s Community of Practice gathering that I had the pleasure of attending earlier in July. The Community of Practice is comprised of staff and volunteers from other Food Policy Councils and groups across BC who, like us, have municipal food policy advocacy in their mandates.  We met and tented overnight together at the UBC farm for a one-day intensive learning and sharing session prior to the larger BCFSN Gathering.  

It was a joy to get together with the Community of Practice in person after several shared online sessions. I loved having the time for conversations about veroa mites, protecting hens from owls, and the nutritional value of placentas (this was a more of a late-night discussion). It was equally rewarding to discuss ways to collectively  seek action on issues we often can only muddle through individually, such as farmland conservation, poverty reduction as the root of food insecurity, climate change and environmental issues. Hearing other people say “the Food Policy Council” while referring to their work in other communities across BC felt complicit in a really delightful way.

Being new to working in the non-profit sector, I had expected there to be a lack of support and resources, but in the few short months of working on the ground in this sector, I have found numerous organizations who provide excellent support and connection points. This gathering showed me that the BCFSN is one of them. Totally helpful answer holders, really.

One of the answers that the BCFSN held for me this week was a new outlook on our role in implementing policy. I realized, as I listened to other people around the table, that one of our strengths in Kamloops is the initiative that the City has already taken in creating important food policy documents. The Area Agricultural Plan and the Food and Urban Agriculture Plan in particular are excellent examples of robust municipal food policies that are already in place. These two documents engaged many people, captured a lot of ideas, and in a significant way informed the work we do. We also have various food policies in the Social Plan, the OCP, and the Sustainable Kamloops Plan. As a previous planning consultant, engaging in food policy advocacy has come with the satisfaction of entering into something that really feels in my wheelhouse, but I didn’t realize until this week the vital shift I need to make from thinking about policy in somewhat abstract terms to thinking about how we can support the implementation of these plans. I realized during the Gathering, with immense pleasure that, in this new job, I am now on the other side of the court, so to speak, waiting for the policy writing people to lob the ball over to our organization. And when they do, and the policy is adopted, we can orient ourselves around innovating, connecting, and using our creativity to support action. We can be catalysts by pulling out great ideas and engaging partners in implementing these plans on the ground. Although this might seem like an obvious role, the “how” of implementation was always a little fuzzy to me.

This is where the Community of Practice really brought to light a lot of concrete tools and ideas to try. For me, these included:

  • Creating an interdepartmental committee of the KFPC made of people who are liaisons between the local government, the health authority, and other significant partners
  • Working to encompass the multifaceted nature of food in partnership development, including advocates and support agencies who deal with seniors, youth, environment, ranching, sports, waste reduction, organic standards, addictions, fisheries, religion and spirituality, homelessness, poverty, culture, healthy built environment, climate change, agrologists, dieticians, and many more.
  • Requesting an annual report to the City Council in order to share the good work we are doing
  • Creating “Passion to Action” events to connect people in the community who are looking to start a food security initiative in the City
  • Working collectively towards unified advocacy with the other members of the Community of Practice in BC, potentially through municipal requests for provincial policy

These are just some of the great ideas that were floated by Brent and Abra (the facilitators), and the other members of the Community of Practice. There were also book recommendations, frameworks to help explain and assess our work, and more conversations to follow up on that I am sure I will get new inspiration from.

Needless to say, it was a fully enriching experience that really lit the fire for me to continue to working with the KFPC team to carry out policy advocacy (and implementation!) in our community. I would love to carry on the conversation around specific tools/ideas/initiatives that other food policy councils and groups are taking on once food policy has been established. Please leave a comment if you have something to share around this!

Bonnie Klohn is the Regional Food Sovereignty Coordinator of the Kamloops Food Policy Council. She works on engaging organizations and people in food policy and programming. She is the proud owner of several backyard hens, and 5 productive fruit trees.

 

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