Sustainable Food Systems Survey
Food for thought
A growing number of Canadian municipalities are integrating sustainability into their planning process - through sustainable community plans, integrated community sustainability plans, local action plans, long-range sustainability plans, smart growth initiatives, community improvement plans and Local Agenda 21 plans.
Urban sprawl, climate change and rising prices are just a few of the issues challenging many communities to assess their local and regional food systems as part of their planning process. Sustainable food systems cut across many of the sectors of municipal activity that are usually identified in sustainability plans, such as energy use, planning, transportation planning, land use, waste and water management. In some municipalities, food systems are a high priority and may form their own pillar in sustainability planning.
What are sustainable food systems?
Sustainable food systems are collaborative networks that integrate the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food and waste management. They aim to enhance the environmental, economic, and social health of a community.
In 2010, FCM's Green Municipal Fund conducted a survey to learn whether Canadian municipalities are considering sustainable food systems in their planning process
We wanted to find out:
- Are sustainable food systems important to municipalities?
- What are municipalities doing about sustainable food systems?
- Are municipalities looking for resources, funding and training?
- Where are Municipalities going to find information on sustainable food systems?
Reaping the results
We received 115 completed surveys from municipal government respondents. Here is a taste of the key results:
- Rural (43 per cent) and urban (57 per cent) municipalities are interested in sustainable food systems.
- 56 per cent of respondents view sustainable food systems as a medium to high priority.
- 60 per cent said that they have food "champions" working with their municipalities.
- 66 per cent ranked farmers' markets as their highest priority, with community gardens a close second.
- Most respondents have integrated sustainable food systems into their current or future planning.
- Community groups and NGOs are the biggest sources of information on sustainable food systems.
The City of St. Albert, Alberta, has had a farmers' market - now the largest outdoor market in western Canada - for decades. The Town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia,
launched a pilot farmers' market in 2008 and has recently endorsed a permanent riverfront structure to support the market's long-term growth.
While the two markets are at different stages in their development, both communities are working hard to maintain them. Like other municipalities across Canada,
St. Albert and New Glasgow believe their efforts help to support local farmers, and to educate people on healthy eating and the benefits of eating and buying locally.
Farming in northern Canada is challenging, so the City of Yellowknife, N.W.T., has developed "market gardens" as a part of the Yellowknife, Ndilo and Dettah Food System Assessment and Community Food Action Plan. The plan supports local gardening and has identified a need for more aggressive planning and policies for agricultural land use.
Looking for more substantial fare?
Sink your teeth into these great resources:
- The 'Good Food' Value Chain
- Growing Towards Food Self-Reliance: A Whole Community Agricultural Strategy
(District of North Saanich)
- Food Matters Manitoba
- Waterloo Region's A Healthy Community Food System Plan (2007)
- The Local Food Revolution by Gord Hume
- Food For All - A Food Action Plan for Ottawa
And stay tuned for our session on sustainable food systems at our upcoming
FCM Sustainable Communities Conference.