Info for Evacuees

 

Food Resources for Wildfire Evacuees in Kamloops

Evacuees in need of free of meals and food can see our Kamloops Emergency Food Resources and Community Meal Calendar.

 

ESS Information for Evacuees

If you do not require ESS assistance, you do not need to visit a reception centre. In many cases, home or tenant insurance provides greater support than what is available through ESS, so be sure to speak with your insurance representative to see what is available to you.

If you do require ESS assistance for shelter, food or incidentals, you must visit a reception centre to apply and complete an eligibility interview. Registering online is not enough.

To qualify for ESS support, your primary residence must be located within an evacuation order area. People evacuated from vacation rentals or owners of secondary residences in the evacuation order area are not eligible to receive ESS assistance.

To speed up processing for ESS, register online at https://ess.gov.bc.ca/ and download and activate the BC Services Card App from Google Play or the Apple App Store to receive supports via etransfer once you’ve been processed.

For Animals

B.C. wildfire evacuees that are in need of emergency boarding for your animals can contact the BC SPCA Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722.

The wildfire situation continues to change at a rapid pace. For the most up to date information, visit BCWildfire.ca

 

How to Help

 

We understand that everyone want to help evacuees, but please do not walk-up to ESS reception centres to volunteer – this prevents ESS Volunteers from doing their jobs. ESS volunteers must have specific training, course work, and police checks, which cannot be done on site. If you are interested in volunteering, register at Kamloops.ca/ESSVolunteer – you will be contacted about volunteer training opportunities as capacity allows.

Folks are also ask not to bring donations of any kind to ESS reception centres. Volunteers do not have the capacity to sort through and distribute donations. Instead, make a financial donation online at uwbc.ca/campaign/wildfires or spca.bc.ca/bc-wildfire-animal-support/ – and please do not donate food! Some ESS centres are experiencing an overwhelming amount of perishable food donations.

For the most up-to date information on the wildfire situation and how you can help, visit BCWildfire.ca

 

 

Have you seen what’s Stirring outside our new food hub? A collection of benches, native plants, and a community pantry have popped up outside The Stir, 185 Royal Ave – and we need your help to keep this space functional for our community to enjoy!

The Stir is looking for folks who want to adopt care-taking tasks for the community pantry or parklet. This adoption doesn’t require a big time commitment or a certain schedule; whenever you have time to come take a peek in the pantry, dust its shelves, and make sure no one has accidentally left a perishable item inside will help us maintain the integrity of this pantry. You can also choose to bring your own non-perishables to put inside the pantry, or help acquire non-perishable donations from other folks and organizations in our community! 

Task you can adopt on your daily walk past The Stir, include:

  • Picking up garbage you see in the Parklet and/or inside the pantry
  • Sweeping the Pavement mural
  • Wiping down the benches 
  • Ensuring there are no perishables in the pantry and that its shelves are clean
  • Donating non-perishable items to the pantry

Some of these tasks require equipment that we may be able to provide if staff are onsite. We recommend Parklet Adopters come with their own cleaning supplies if they’re in the mood for a deeper cleaning day! 

Want to learn more about our Public Parklet and its role in our community? Read our Connector Column on it!

Questions? Emails us info@kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com

In British Columbia, climate disasters have an increasing impact on communities. When communities are evacuated, they often relocate to nearby locations known as “Host Communities”. When a host community is “activated”, local Emergency Support Services (ESS) step in to provide immediate basic needs for evacuees. These services are critical and essential for meeting one’s basic life-supporting needs. As we know humans have an array of needs, including social, cultural, physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs. Social sectors exist in communities to provide enhanced intersectional support for all demographics.

In response to the atmospheric river floods in November 2021, Emily Pletsch, Food Security and Emergency Response Coordinator with Kamloops Food Policy Council, and Kristi Rintoul, Community Impact Manager, Community Impact & Investment with United Way British Columbia developed a partnership to strategize how the social sector can effectively work alongside ESS during an activation to better support evacuees. This work led to the development of the Three-Step Social Sector Activation Guide for Host Communities; this guide serves to create a structure for the social sector in host communities to provide holistic wrap-around support for evacuees alongside ESS. Host communities can take many steps before an emergency to lay the groundwork to respond in a holistic way. Emergency response approaches can meet unique needs by establishing a foundation for this work rooted in relationality, safety, and equity.

This step by step guide can be adapted to meet localized emergency response. Distinct communities pre-plan and respond differently depending on the type of event, services available, and capacity at the time.

This work would not have been possible without the support, insight and feedback from multiple dedicated community-driven people and organizations in Kamloops and throughout the province. It is only by doing this work together that we can discover approaches to emergency response that meet the unique needs of everyone.

We are so excited to share this work with communities and look forward to continuing to evolve emergency response work throughout the province.

The Kamloops Food Policy Council has launched a series on food and the city to explore a number of deeper civic discussions leading up to our municipal election. As the late urban planner and Canadian food advocate Wayne Roberts wrote, “food is a lever.” Food is how we connect to the land, our communities, and our traditions. And because food is so impactful in all our lives, it is a useful lever through which we can create transformative changes in other areas. Strong local food systems can help us get to more affordable housing, walkable neighbourhoods, stronger local economies, spaces for safety and belonging, and more. 

Subscribe here to stay in the loop about our ongoing food and the city posts!


Community Food Security

As the memories of empty grocery shelves and uncertainty about supply chains are still fresh in our minds, it’s a good time to think about what food system resilience is, and how we can move towards this as a community. The highway closures in November 2021 showed the relatively short supplies of fresh vegetables, milk, egg and other staples that our grocery stores can carry. While many people attributed the empty shelves to panic buying, in reality, our food system has moved towards to-the-minute supply chains. Our globalized system and consolidation of production and aggregation facilities leave us very vulnerable to disruptions. 

Food shortages bring pre-existing failures of the food system into view for a much wider audience in the community – many people start thinking about where their food comes from for the first time. While we don’t want to over-dramatize the fact that we had empty produce shelves – ultimately, supply chains were able to adapt and fresh produce was back on shelves within several days. We want to recognize these moments where the lack of resilience in our global food supply chains are made visible and how they prompt us to reflect on the deeper challenges in our current food system. Specifically thinking of which members of our community are most vulnerable when these disruptions take place.

As climate change disasters become more and more frequent there is an increased risk of larger scale shortages. Turning our attention and our minds towards local food can help to put some slack in our system and increase our ability to weather the potential supply chain storms ahead. 

Defining Community Food Security and Food Sovereignty

Community food security aims to ensure that “all citizens obtain a safe, personally acceptable, nutritious diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes healthy choices, community self-reliance and equal access for everyone” (BC Interior Health Authority; Dietitians of Canada 2017). Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems (La Via Campesina).

These concepts integrate multiple issues. When we talk about food security, we’re not just asking if people have enough food to eat, we’re thinking about the whole system around food: we’re emphasizing that food is a human right that everyone should have access to, we’re thinking about how food is grown – who grows it, how it impacts our land and water, and who holds the power and privilege in that system.

A Systems Approach

At the KFPC, our response to the challenge of food security is to take a systems approach, to radically reimagine our food systems in ways that take into account the health and well-being of people, land, and water. We need resilient food systems if we’re going to have food secure communities.

In order to see this meaningful change, we need to shift our mindsets both individually and at a cultural level. In particular, there is deep work needed to decolonize how we view our land, food, and each other. We need to move away from viewing food and land as a commodity to be extracted and consumed, and towards a view that sees food as a gift; reflects and respects the interconnectedness of food, people, and nature; promotes a feeling of abundance; and reminds us to care for our community and for each other. 

Our recipe for becoming more food resilient as a community lies in addressing four areas of work: mutual aid, locally grown food, local food processing and distribution, and advocating for policies that support our regional food system. 

Mutual Aid

We need to start with disrupting the “us” vs “them” mentality. Many people were upset about alleged “hoarding” of food during the shortages, but it is important to remember that Kamloops’ population increased by 4% (3000+) with evacuees at the same time as the highways closed. All the evacuees were given grocery vouchers to spend at local stores to do an empty-fridge shop. One of the most important things we can do is to redirect our focus to mutual aid. It’s about helping others, but also learning how to communicate your needs. Sharing and trading are some of the most important activities for resilience in times of crisis. Knowing where food is being redistributed is helpful – we provide a list of free food resources and community meals on our website.

Locally Grown Food

We are seeing many examples of how local food production increases the resilience of our system. When the grocery shelves were empty, there were still fresh veggies at our local Farmers Market. We saw Blackwell Dairy milk stand out like an oasis in a deserted dairy aisle. Local farms were letting people know on social media they could come by if they needed food. Ultimately, the more local food in our bellies, the more we will be able to cope with disruptions in our supply chains. Let’s support local farmers and food business owners to make sure they are there when we need them again. 

The City of Kamloops Food and Agriculture Plan now encourages front yard gardens instead of lawns, and it allows up to five backyard chickens per household. In Kamloops, detached houses can have up to seven rabbits, and more recently, bee hives. These measures and the policies in place to support them will come as a great comfort as eggs and other staples are in short supply in the grocery stores. KFPC’s Gleaning Abundance Program and the Butler Urban Farm are great ways to access fruit and vegetables from common space for free in the summer months. 

Local Food Processing and Distribution

One of our major focuses right now at the KFPC is launching The Stir: a commercial processing kitchen facility that will allow local food to be preserved so it is available year-round. This facility will be available for food entrepreneurs, farmers and community members to rent on an hourly or monthly basis. 

Food Policies

Finally, we need to continue to push for provincial and federal policies and programs that protect and preserve farms that are producing for a local market. We need to continue to move towards creating livelihoods that keep the food production sector in our region healthy and thriving. 

We do not know what sorts of emergencies we may face in the growing uncertainty of climate change. However, we do know that how we prepare as a community will greatly enhance our self-sufficiency and resilience. The Kamloops Food Policy Council is intrepidly working towards our vision of a local regenerative and just food system, with a renewed sense of purpose and attention. 

KFPC’s Recommendation for Building a Food Secure Community for All

  • Create and implement a municipal Poverty Reduction Strategy that prioritizes food security for all as a human right
    • Establish decision making structures and equitable collaborative engagement to understand and act on the needs and concerns of people with lived/living experience of poverty
    • Allocate municipal funds for a long term multi-year, multisectoral poverty reduction approach
  • Include community food security as a priority area in all emergency and disaster recovery planning processes
  • Initiate a 10-year evaluation and update of the City of Kamloops’ Agriculture Area Plan (2023) and the Food and Urban Agriculture Plan (2025)
  • Allocate municipal funding through service agreements to organizations responsible for implementing actions in the Food and Urban Agriculture Plan and Agriculture Area Plan
  • Allocate a portion of the City of Kamloops’ investment in economic development specifically to grow the local food economy

The Kamloops Food Policy Council has launched a series on food and the city to explore a number of deeper civic discussions leading up to our municipal election. As the late urban planner and Canadian food advocate Wayne Roberts wrote, “food is a lever.” Food is how we connect to the land, our communities, and our traditions. And because food is so impactful in all our lives, it is a useful lever through which we can create transformative changes in other areas. Strong local food systems can help us get to more affordable housing, walkable neighbourhoods, stronger local economies, spaces for safety and belonging, and more. 

Subscribe here to stay in the loop about our ongoing food and the city posts!


Exploring Community Safety in Kamloops – Part Two

*The first part of this post can be found here.

Community safety is a topic that reaches every aspect of our lives, including mental and physical health, housing and food security, and our social interactions and feelings of belonging. Community safety affects everyone and can only be achieved when individuals have a lack of need and want. You can read more about our exploration of the concept of community safety in Kamloops here.

Community safety has been a topic of great discussion at the KFPC as we approach the upcoming municipal election. These discussions have led us to explore how we can improve real and perceived safety for everyone in our community based on several common themes: mental and physical health, housing and food security, and social health.

Mental Health

Mental health is a critical aspect for community safety as it impacts safety on an individual and city-wide level. Like much of BC, Kamloops is experiencing a mental health care crisis. Our current funding structure and administrative services for mental health rely heavily on policing. This has caused police to be the primary contact for wellness checks, suspected overdoses, domestic violence incidents, and other mental health related crises. However, police are not trained in mental health crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation. Instead, they may respond with violence and detention, which can heighten the distress of the individual they are responding to. 

One alternative that we are seeing in Kamloops is the Car 40 program. This program pairs a psychiatric nurse with a plain clothes officer, who respond together to mental health related 911 calls that may traditionally have been responded to solely by police. This makes for a safer response for the individual they are attending to and frees up police officers and EMTs for other calls. This response also allows for an evaluation before the individual may be taken to the ER for further help, if deemed necessary by the professional. 

Despite the program’s headway, staffing of psychiatric nurses and the extra expenses for program expansion have historically hindered Car 40’s reach. Right now, Car 40 operates during business hours, but does not have coverage during evenings and weekends. Research shows the lack of psychiatric nurses in our area is not due to a lack of interest in the field, but a lack of opportunities for students to have practical experiences in psychiatric care.

Increasing the communication within the partnership between Interior Health (IH) and Thompson Rivers University’s School of Nursing (TRU SON) can help create more opportunities for student nurses to practice psychiatric care and encourage growth in this field of nursing to help bolster our existing care and response options for individuals in mental health crises. Furthermore, increased staffing for responses like Car 40 can decrease strain on other institutions, such as police, that have other roles to perform in community safety.

Physical Health 

Kamloops is currently experiencing a healthcare crisis with wide-reaching consequences on almost all areas of our lives, including community safety for our physical well-being. We have all experienced long wait times to access our family doctor, walk in clinics, or care at the emergency room. For people oppressed in our communities, such as those experiencing substance abuse disorders, mental illnesses, homelessness, poverty, those a part of a racial minority, or individuals living in larger bodies, accessing health care becomes even more complicated. All these groups may experience biases and stigma that can interfere with the quality of care they receive, if they can even access a medical professional. 

For some, hours of availability for walk-in clinics and long wait times at the ER may prevent them from accessing care if they need to decide between going to work that day or tending to children, versus taking care of their physical health. For others, the treatment they receive from medical staff or other patrons may deter them from seeking care. And for other groups of people, they may not be in a mental or physical state that is well enough to even try to access care, such as those with substance use disorder. 

While communities across Canada try to amend their doctor shortages, we also encourage communities to look into what types of clinics and medical care are currently available and accessible to those in need. Do we have street teams that help those experiencing substance use disorder, or homelessness access care without fear of stigma? Do we have enough trauma and culturally informed providers to treat our Indigenous populations? Is childcare offered while parents wait to receive care? Do we have clinics that are open 24 hours, to prevent overburdening our hospitals with non-emergent care needs?

Instead of asking whether there is “enough” care in our communities, we want governments to consider if there is enough accessible care available; are clinics open outside of regular business hours, is there childcare provided, are staff trained in trauma-informed practices?

Housing

Housing for all is essential to community safety. Unfortunately, Kamloops is experiencing a major crisis of housing affordability and availability. You can read more about KFPC’s policy recommendations for housing here.

Food security 

In addition to physical health care, access to food to maintain one’s health is also a necessity when it comes to community safety and wellness. Panic buying during the early days of Covid-19 and highway closures last fall have shown us all the importance of a strong local food-supply. On average, our grocers stock two days worth of food at a time. In times of emergency or delayed delivery, we have seen firsthand how quickly grocery store shelves can become empty.

To build a resilient food system, we must invest in our own food producers and processors to ensure we have continued access to food in the event of an emergency. Buying local and encouraging retailers to stock Okanagan or Interior products on their shelves can help ensure continued access to food in the event we cannot import food from other areas of the province, country, or internationally. Supporting initiatives like the KFPC’s food hub, The Stir, is key in strengthening the ability of our region to produce, process, preserve, and distribute local food.

Another factor to consider when talking about food security is equitable access to food. Do all people have access to fresh, culturally appropriate foods? Supporting programs like the Butler Urban Farm, an open access farm that anyone can harvest from during drop-in hours, is one piece of ensuring food security for everyone. We also have to ensure community food programming, such as food banks, are open during accessible hours or have alternatives if an individual is unable to pick up their own food. The Kamloops Food Bank has recently extended their business week to include Saturdays to help reach more people in need of food.

A more equitable dispersion of food security resources like community pantries and fridges can help more people have steadier and less stigmatised access to food than would otherwise be possible. Programs like the MacDonald Produce shelf help meet this need of immediate physical hunger for anyone in the community. Community fridges or pantries allow people to leave food and take food, in an anonymous fashion helps eliminate some of the stigma folks face when accessing resources like a food bank or soup kitchen. It also offers an ease of access for street entrenched folks that is not available through traditional food banks. A free access food shelf in their neighbourhood ensures many can get nutrition when they need it and are of mind to access it; they won’t need to try and find transportation to the food bank on their assigned day, and don’t need to carry or store the food for multiple days, like they would need to if accessing the food bank and acquiring a week’s worth of food. 

Social Safety

Many groups already facing a lack of safety physically, mentally, or regarding food and housing, have an added social violence in their daily lives through social interactions. Aggressive comments, actions, and care from community members and providers alike can have further negative impacts on the way an individual feels about themselves and their right to safety. A recent study published by the National Library of Medicine stated that “microaggressions may play a role in increasing the morbidity and mortality observed among certain racial minority groups as well as in people of low socioeconomic status” (2021).

De-stigmatizing the way community members and professionals think about people of different races, economic statuses, and those who are experiencing homelessness and mental health or substance abuse challenges, can drastically improve the daily safety levels of these groups of people.  

Health, governing, and policing institutions have a large influence in the way people think about others in their communities. Educating the public about how to respond to crises and what types of care are needed, can go a long way in creating a safer community.  This may look like public ad campaigns teaching the public about how to respond to certain situations. For example, how to talk to 911 when you suspect someone is overdosing. It is recommended when an individual comes across someone they suspect is experiencing an overdose, that they do not say this to a 911 operator, but rather report they have found someone unconscious, to reduce preconceived ideas about the individual by the emergency responders. Knowledge like this can dramatically influence the type of care an individual receives. By educating the public about some of the challenges working against certain groups who experience a lack of safety disproportionately to other populations, can help negate stereotypes and  microaggressions, helping improve citizen’s responses to seeing people in need of help.

More education for providers about trauma informed care for oppressed and stereotyped individuals can help improve the care they provide. Like citizens, if providers understand circumstances working against certain individuals, they are less likely to blame the individual themselves for needing care, and can instead offer compassionate care that can help the individual feel less afraid to access similar services next time they need help, instead of feeling afraid or anxious about having an unsafe interaction with a care or service provider.

Our communities are safer and healthier when citizens are educated about resources available and when they can be helpful. Our neighbour’s safety directly affects our own, and we all have a role to play in making our municipalities feel safe for everyone.

You can learn more about the importance of public and accessible spaces, which also contribute to public safety, here.

A safer city involves us all

We all have a role to play in helping our communities feel safer. Educating ourselves, and demanding health, governing, and policing institutions do their part to educate the public and create new, or bolster existing services, is the next step in improving community safety. 

 

KFPC’s Policy Recommendations to Increase Community Safety for All: 

  • Collaborative development of a comprehensive community safety strategy, including:
    • Meaningful involvement from those most in need and most lacking safety in our communities
    • Leadership and partnership efforts from the whole community, including the social service sector, business sector, neighbourhood associations, those with lived experience, and elected representatives
    • The implementation of safety audits in different community environments to inform our understanding of our existing safety levels, and allowing us to build a strategy based on immediate needs
  • Reallocation of municipal funding to reduce the responsibilities of the police in situations where they are not the best equipped to create safety, such as mental health issues or domestic disputes
    • more street outreach teams, more support for basic needs like housing and food security
  • Improvements to the accessibility of our healthcare system including:
    • Additional communication between IH and TRU SON to create more practicum placements in psychiatric nursing for student nurses to help increase the availability of psychiatric care.
    • Clinics (seperate from the ER) that are available  for longer hours to accommodate folks who cannot take time off of work to seek medical attention. 
    • Clinics that provide child care,
    • Clinicians and all staff trained in trauma-informed practices, particularly in regards to: those experiencing homlessness, substance abuse-disorder, and other mental health crises; domestic violence and abuse victims; fat people; and Indigenous Peoples. 
  • The implementation of community pantries and fridges in neighbourhoods across Kamloops.
  • An increase in public-education aiming to destigmatize marginalised communities and teach citizens how to respond to a variety of mental and physical crises.

The Kamloops Food Policy Council has launched a series on food and the city to explore a number of deeper civic discussions leading up to our municipal election. As the late urban planner and Canadian food advocate Wayne Roberts wrote, “food is a lever.” Food is how we connect to the land, our communities, and our traditions. And because food is so impactful in all our lives, it is a useful lever through which we can create transformative changes in other areas. Strong local food systems can help us get to more affordable housing, walkable neighbourhoods, stronger local economies, spaces for safety and belonging, and more. 

Subscribe here to stay in the loop about our ongoing food and the city posts!

 


Exploring Community Safety in Kamloops

*This post was also published in the Kamloops This Week Connector Article. That version can be found here.
*The second blog post on Community Safety can be found here.

 

What does it mean to feel safe in our community? At the Kamloops Food Policy Council, we’ve noticed our understanding of safety has undergone drastic revisions over the last few years as we’ve navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, floods, and supply-chain issues. These emergencies and challenges have brought new and complex needs to our community. 

This new and heightened level of need may be a contributing factor to the increase in crime rates and decrease in perceptions of safety we are currently seeing in Kamloops. When discussing safety, it’s important to consider the actualized levels of safety as well as our perceptions of it. While general unease has increased and feelings of safety have decreased in current years, current crime statistics show a decrease in general crime. Our current crime severity index score in Kamloops is 135.5, with the RCMP reporting in their Quarter 4 year end report this spring that criminal offences have risen 5% from 2020 to 2021. However, our current score shows a decrease compared to historical data. In 2000, Kamloops had a crime severity index score of 160.31. This score peaked at 190.92 in 2003, and reached a record low of 98.14 in 2015. 

Safety is a complex topic, and it is often hard to see the whole picture of public safety and security in our community. Statistics don’t tell us everything and are often hard to come by in detail at a local level. However, despite these challenges, it is necessary to aim for a comprehensive understanding of community safety to address the issues that influence our perceptions and actualized levels of safety. 

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), community safety engages personal security, personal development, and community development at the individual and community level. The UNDP also suggests that true safety includes an ensured “freedom from fear.” In broader definitions, safety also includes “freedom from want” for all community members. This understanding aligns with a core value of the KFPC: to alleviate poverty and promote food security for all.

Freedom from fear and freedom from want are both needed for community saftey. Who is experiencing fear and/or want is an important and complex question to address. Marginalized people in our community, including people of colour, those who are unhoused, individuals experiencing food insecurity, individuals whom have untreated mental health issues or substance abuse disorders, and those living in abusive environments are the most vulnerable and at risk when it comes to their personal safety, and the least likely to be experiencing these freedoms from want or need. These groups are also most likely to experience stigma and shame, even though our whole community benefits when we address the systems that put people into these circumstances (see our recent short film Don’t Fight the Poor, Fight Poverty). 

Currently, our default solution to increasing community safety is policing. While one part of a complex structure, it is important to note that policing doesn’t address freedom from want occurring in our community. Evidence shows us that more policing isn’t necessarily the best solution to increasing community safety, especially for marginalized groups where policing can impose higher risks. For example, Indigenous and Black citizens are overrepresented per capita in deadly police encounters.  So, what other solutions can we turn to to create a safer community?

In the context of these complex social issues, the KFPC is advocating for the development of a comprehensive community safety strategy on behalf of the City of Kamloops. This effort will require solid leadership and partnership efforts from the whole community, as well as meaningful involvement from those most in need and most lacking safety in our communities. It will also require all of us to step up in our own neighbourhoods, as our neighbours’ safety directly effects our own. An example of a small step that can go a long way in creating safety in our neighbourhoods, is the McDonald Park Neighbourhood Association’s recently opened Free Community Produce Stand in McDonald Park.

Some other feasible solutions might include more street outreach teams, more support for basic needs like housing and food security, and reallocation of municipal funding to reduce the responsibilities of police in situations such as mental health issues or domestic disputes. The development and implementation of safety audits in different community environments would also be beneficial to give our community an idea of our existing safety levels, and allow us to make recommendations and implement new initiatives based on our immediate needs.

Overall, an integrated strategy with supporting processes and mechanisms for implementing solutions can go a long way in increasing the level of safety in our community, and ensuring it extends beyond police force responsibility. We can all participate in keeping each other safe! 

The Kamloops Food Policy Council has launched a series on food and the city to explore a number of deeper civic discussions leading up to our municipal election. As the late urban planner and Canadian food advocate Wayne Roberts wrote, “food is a lever.” Food is how we connect to the land, our communities, and our traditions. And because food is so impactful in all our lives, it is a useful lever through which we can create transformative changes in other areas. Strong local food systems can help us get to more affordable housing, walkable neighbourhoods, stronger local economies, spaces for safety and belonging, and more. 

 

This is the first post in our Food & The City series. Subscribe here to stay in the loop about our ongoing food and the city posts!

 

Sustainable Development and Affordable Housing in Kamloops

*Portions of this post were published in the Kamloops This Week Connector Article. The condensed version of this article can be found here.

 

In January 2022, the provincial Agricultural Land Commission denied an application from Tranquille on the Lake to remove ~51 ha from the Agricultural Land Reserve for a housing development. This decision was welcomed by the Kamloops Food Policy Council, who had advocated against the proposal due to the loss of agricultural lands, expected harm to a sensitive ecosystem, and lack of acknowledgement for an important Secwepemc cultural heritage site. 

The KFPC envisions a local food system that is regenerative, sovereign, and just. This means we advocate for development policies that protect agricultural lands and support the food security of our community. However, Kamloops is also in a severe housing crisis, and the lack of available, affordable housing is causing many families to struggle to put food on the table. 

Unlimited growth, a mindset with deep roots in imperialism and colonialism, can lead to the devastating destruction of valuable agricultural land, sprawling expensive neighbourhoods, and car-dependent cities. Growth for the sake of growth isn’t automatically good. Yet, stopping all growth is a major contributing factor to our current housing crisis. Low development, NIMBYism, and zoning constraints have caused a dangerously low vacancy rate and a limited housing inventory. 

What would  “good growth” look like in Kamloops? Growth that is resilient, compassionate, and smart can help us thrive. Growth that focuses on the needs, desires, and intricacies of our community can help us become a better place – unlike growth that focuses on building as many luxury homes as possible in a quarter.

The KFPC is advocating for policies and action from housing developers and local government that encourages good growth, preserves our local food system and supports the distinctive needs of our community. More inclusive and economically savvy development – such as infill, multi-family, housing cooperatives and affordable rental housing units in our pre-existing neighbourhoods – are essential to increasing our low supply and meeting Kamloops’ current housing gaps. Housing that is net-zero, resilient to heat domes and flooding, and doesn’t expand the wildland-urban interface even further is equally important. Ensuring the right type of development is key to fostering the resilient long term health of Kamloops. 

 

(where do we grow from here?)

 

Growth in the face of an affordability and availability housing crisis

Kamloops is in a severe housing crisis. Our population is growing more quickly than projected, and our inventory and community vacancy rates are at critically low levels. We know we are in desperate need of more housing supply. 

However, not all development meets the current demands of our fast-growing city. Large single-family homes – like the ones planned in the recent Tranquille on the Lake Development – do not necessarily meet the budget of young families looking to enter the housing market as first time buyers or individuals or families looking to rent. Houses outside of city limits fall outside of our transportation network, and fail to meet the needs of single-parents or students relying on public transit. 

Expanding outside of current boundaries also brings higher social and economic costs. The majority of Kamloops’ elementary schools are over capacity. While building new neighbourhoods in the proposed areas such as Edinburgh Heights or Tranquille on the Lake expands our city’s boundaries, they don’t address the current social needs around public infrastructure. These new areas would require new schools, potentially diverting funds from pre-existing schools experiencing some of the highest levels of over-capacity in B.C

It’s important to note that expansive, luxury developments outside our core centre increase the demands on our city’s infrastructure and services, subsequently increasing our property taxes. A recent study released by Strong Towns and Urban3 found that development in car-centric suburban neighbourhoods produces a net negative to municipal budgets, and is subsidized by the net positive economic impact of denser, core neighbourhoods. These findings are similar to a recent study in Ottawa that found that low-density development costs the City of Ottawa $465 per person per year, while high-density infill development not only pays for itself, it leaves the City with an extra $606 per capita each year. 

KamPlan identifies projected growth for the outer limits of Kamloops. According to the current StatsCanada data released in 2022, much of Kamloops’ recent population growth is due to its expansions just outside the city’s limits. This “donut-ring” development is occurring on the edge of our city limits and other bordering communities. These new developments come at a greater cost: economic strain (increase of property taxes to supply water/sewer and new schools), social strain (increase of inequities in the community when first time home buyers, lower income families and students are priced out of the market), and environmental strain (loss of ecosystems, agricultural lands and weakened food security). 

Even as we’re so greatly in need of more housing – while lacking the infinite room to grow – we need to seriously consider whether this kind of development is actually meeting the needs of our community. Constricted by geographic and administrative boundaries, we have to be cognizant of the needs of and cost of development in our community. What direction are we growing? Can we use new development to create a more equitable Kamloops?

Growth in the face of climate change

The evacuation of Juniper, the complete eradication of Lytton, and the continuous blanket of smoke in summer 2021 revealed how unstable our future in the interior is with climate change. In the last several years, we have been faced with the impacts climate change will have on our communities in a very visible way. We need to prepare to experience more record breaking heat-waves and wildfire seasons, more extreme rainfall and flooding events, and greater impacts to our regional infrastructure. 

Proposed growth and new housing development must be as resilient to climate change as possible to ensure the longevity and livability of our community. Continuing to develop on the wildland-urban interface exacerbates the potential risks of urban wildfires. This increases the potential destruction of property and life, displacement of evacuees, and increases home insurance and strata fees for all. Building more density in our core neighbourhoods can help mitigate our risk and vulnerability to climate change, while reducing living costs.

The sprawl of our community beyond its currently defined borders also poses concerns for preserving both agricultural lands and sensitive ecosystems. Regeneratively managed agricultural lands and ecosystems provide valuable contributions to our community’s food security and overall well-being: locally grown food, recreational greenspaces, enhanced biodiversity, wildfire prevention, and low-cost sustainable infrastructure for stormwater management are just a few examples. These “ecosystem services” have economic benefits too, as the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative has shown!

We also need to ensure that any new housing we develop is both resilient to climate impacts like flooding, wildfires and heat domes, but also net-zero and energy independent, so it doesn’t further contribute to the problem. NexBuild Construction’s net-zero 4 plex on Schubert Dr. is a great example, and of course we love the shared garden space for urban agriculture too!

KFPC’s Policy Recommendations for Sustainable, Resilient Development and Growth

So exactly what type of regulations, development, or policies can ensure the resilient long term health of Kamloops, rather than developing ourselves into a corner? The following recommendations can guide us to a healthier, happier, and more economically just Kamloops:

  • Including more voices in development processes: We are calling for more deeply inclusive representation in development processes, such as:
    • An inclusive citizen’s assembly or public forum for dialogue to generate creative solutions to housing affordability and availability.
    • A YIMBY (yes in my backyard) campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of multi-family infill development and encourage increased density from secondary suites.
    • Inclusive long-term planning processes.
    • Public hearings that include other community members beyond property owners in neighbourhoods impacted by development proposals. We need to hear from renters, young adults who can’t afford to move out of their parents’ homes, single-parent families, etc. These voices should be encouraged and weighted more heavily given that they experience greater barriers to participation.
  • Flexible development guidelines, regulations, and zoning: We are calling for bold changes to our municipal regulations to support, encourage, and foster infill development and increased density in our core neighbourhoods, such as:
    • Removing single family zoning and adding density bonuses for all new non-profit, cooperative and rental developments, and for any for-profit developments that include additional community amenities.
    • Eliminating parking requirements for all new non-profit, cooperative and rental developments, and for any for-profit developments that include green transportation options.
  • Incentivizing good development: We are calling for the City of Kamloops to actively support creative and innovative models for increasing our supply of affordable housing, such as housing cooperatives and partnerships with local non-profit and for-profit developers. We also encourage our Council and City to advocate for Provincial and Federal initiatives to support affordable infill development. 
  • Protecting our urban wildland interface and agricultural lands: We are calling for greater protection for lands at the boundaries of our established neighbourhoods. Development on these lands must meet higher standards and account for the true cost of the loss of ecosystem services and increased climate change risk.
  • Development accountability and transparency: When development is considered in locations that would contribute to urban sprawl, we are calling for greater accountability and transparency about the full scope of impacts to our city by this kind of development. Our specific recommendations include:
    • Setting development fees at levels that truly cover the impacts and reflect the increased operational costs to the municipality over the long term (including schools, loss of ecosystem services, road maintenance, sewer expansion, and other services). 
    • Advocate to the Minister of Education and Childcare to implement fee increases for new residential developments to support public infrastructure, such as new schools. These measures can help foster equity into our taxation and development. 
    • Completing city-wide analysis of the economic costs and benefits of low-density vs. high-density development so the full scope of these costs are transparent to elected representatives and community members.

This list of recommendations is a living document that will evolve and grow as members of KFPC’s grassroots network engage with research and community voices on this topic. If you have any questions,  please contact us: lindsay@tapestryevaluation.com 

If you’re a municipal candidate and want to support any of these policies in your platform or to discuss further, please reach out to us: lindsay@tapestryevaluation.com

 

For the full list of Food & the City topics and recommendations, check out our webpage.

The Kamloops Food Policy Council is grateful for their time as facilitators of the Kamloops Changing the Face of Poverty (CFP). 

At the wake of the pandemic,  it became clear that our food systems in Canada are fragile and can collapse in crisis. In March 2020, KFPC stepped in as facilitators of the CFP to support the coordination of immediate food security needs. Over the past 18 months we have learned so much and are excited to share our learnings with you! We welcome you to read our newly released report “Kamloops Changing the Face of Poverty: Learnings, Transition and Recommendations” written by Emily Pletsch and Bonnie Klohn.

We would like to thank the City of Kamloops and United Way BC for their support in this work and acknowledge Kamloops and District  Elizabeth Fry Society for their role in facilitating CFP previously and moving the group forward for many years. The CFP has played an important role in Kamloops for 15 years.

We look forward to seeing what emerges from these learnings and continuing to play a role in this critical work. You can find updated versions of the emergency meals documents, the final CFP report, CFP archives, poverty reduction updates, and the anti-stigma video: “Don’t Fight the Poor, Fight Poverty” on our new Food Security webpage