The following is a ‘letter to the editor’ from our co-chair, Registered Dietitian Laura Kalina, outlining some of the important things to think about as we prepare for the municipal election on November 19th.
As our municipal election date draws closer, serious voters are trying to choose who they will vote for among the many candidates. There are plenty of opportunities to meet these people, all of whom deserve our appreciation both for their willingness to put their names forward, and for the hard work they put into their campaigns. And there are many important issues and decisions that these people will face in the next three years. But how to choose among the numerous candidates for mayor and council?
Members of the Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) have made the job a little easier for you by compiling some questions that you might want to ask candidates in order to assess their level of understanding and knowledge of the important issue of food security.
What is the KFPC?
Established in 1995, the volunteer organization emphasizes public education on food security issues and initiates concrete food system projects, such as Community Gardens. The KFPC acts as an umbrella, providing an opportunity for project and advocacy groups to co-ordinate their work. The KFPC also acts as a forum where the experiences and insights derived from grassroots projects can be framed as policies for adoption by agencies, institutions and governments. One such document is the Kamloops Food Action Plan. Anyone interested in food is welcome to attend meetings (dates and times are posted in advance at www.kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com)
What is food security?
A community is food secure when all its people have access to nutritious, safe, acceptable and culturally appropriate foods, produced in ways that are environmentally sound and socially just.
What is food sovereignty?
Food sovereignty goes even farther, in valuing food producers, localizing the control of food production, emphasizing education and skills; in other words, placing the control of food production back into the hands of all citizens.
Increasing food costs
Food costs in Kamloops (while still very low compared to most parts of the world) have risen significantly in the past few decades. This is due to various factors such as increasing oil prices (which affect production and transportation costs, as well as increasing the cost of fertilizers, which are generally petroleum-based). Other factors are increases in natural disasters resulting from climate change (such as droughts, flooding, wildfires, and pest infestations) and decreases in the amount of farmland due to urban encroachment.
Sustainable, local food production helps secure a steady supply of food for the community. It also keeps a food system resilient in the face of global influences such as climate change and changing energy prices. We need to switch to the 100 year diet (choosing foods grown in a sustainable manner) as well as the 100 mile diet (selecting foods grown as close to home as possible).
How secure is Kamloops’ food supply?
How does Kamloops stand in regard to these important issues? Most Kamloops citizens realize that some members of our community are food insecure. Examples would be those who find it necessary to visit the Food Bank, or people who must rely on services that provide meals, such as the Pit Stop and the New Life Mission.
But in actual fact, very few of us are truly food secure — almost no one is as food self-sufficient as we were in the past. It would not take more than a few days of blocked transportation routes, or serious fuel shortages, before store shelves would empty in Kamloops. BC as a whole has gone from producing 73% of our food supply in 1985, to just 48% in 2001. It is critical that we provide more support for the agriculture sector in Kamloops and in BC. We cannot continue to lose our farmland to development. This is especially important in the face of climate change, population growth, and increasing transportation costs.
The City of Kamloops, in its Social Sustainability Plans, has recognized the importance of food security, and supports such initiatives as Community Gardens, Community Kitchens, and the Public Produce Project. But much more remains to be done and City Council members can exert considerable influence.
WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK CANDIDATES?
The members of KFPC suggest that you ask candidates any or all of the following questions:
- What do you believe are priority actions for improving and maintaining the sustainability of Kamloops’ food system?
- What is your understanding of the terms food security, food sovereignty, public produce, community gardens, and community kitchens?
- What is the responsibility of municipal governments regarding food security?
- Please describe an action that you take or have taken to promote food security in Kamloops.
- What procedures does the City of Kamloops have in place to monitor the status of our community’s food security?
- What plans are in place that incorporate urban agriculture within the City of Kamloops?
- What is your position on the use of pesticides in agriculture?
While voting for council members, voters should also remember that it is not a requirement to vote for eight candidates. Choosing only those whose knowledge and backgrounds you have thoroughly researched will help ensure their success. There is an old saying: “Actions speak louder than words”. It is very interesting to study the nomination papers for the municipal candidates on the City of Kamloops website. Take a look, talk to all the candidates, and then, on November 19th, carefully tick off a few boxes.
Laura Kalina, Registered Dietitian, Co-chair, Kamloops Food Policy Council