Shuswap Food Action Co-op Questions for Municipal Candidates

The Shuswap Food Action Co-op has posed 10 questions for municipal candidates.

Here are the questions. Responses are being forwarded to Co-op members as well as to to Aim High for posting.

1. What do you think is the municipalities’ role in planning and promoting sustainable food systems?

2. What would be your priority project related to food and agriculture over your term?

3. A Food Charter sets out a vision for health oriented, locals and equitable food system. If elected, would you support the adoption of a Food Charter for your jurisdiction?

4. Is protecting farmland for future generations important to you? Do you agree that all lands in the ALR should remain within the ALR? Are there other ways that we can ensure land is available and accessible for growing food into the future?

5. Food production and transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. How importantly do you rate the production of food regionally, in an attempt to mitigate climate change?

6. Would you support the use of municipal lands and infrastructure to support the development of local food systems, for example for farmers markets, demonstration sites, farm incubators, leasing land to farmers, community gardens and food hubs?

7. Would you support a municipal food purchasing policy, embedding a 10% target for municipal outlets having food being produced from within the region?

8. What would you do to ensure that vulnerable populations have sufficient good, local food?

9. Would you support the development of a Regional Food Policy Council? What would you see as their most important task?

10. Would you advocate for the municipality to work with other levels of government on food security issues? What issues do you see as being a priority for this region to work on with other levels of government?

Click on Continue Reading for the individual responses – in the order submitted to Aim High – by the Co-op

Ruth Thomas:

1. What do you think is the municipalities’ role in planning and promoting sustainable food systems?

A. Although this may not fall into the general mandate of City Council, it should be an easy task to encourage and promote sustainable food systems and it may also be an option to develop a steering committee with Council representation to explore avenues of ensuring food safety and security.

2. What would be your priority project related to food and agriculture over your term?

A. Our agricultural sector needs to be protected from development and organic farming practices needs to be encouraged.

3. A Food Charter sets out a vision for health oriented, locals and equitable food system. If elected, would you support the adoption of a Food Charter for your jurisdiction?

A. Absolutely I would!

4. Is protecting farmland for future generations important to you? Do you agree that all lands in the ALR should remain within the ALR? Are there other ways that we can ensure land is available and accessible for growing food into the future?

To my mind, it’s not a ‘reserve’ if it’s not going to be reserved. Maybe it should be re-named Agricultural Land Reserve Unless Someone With Big-Bucks wants to Develop It. – ALRUSWBBWTDI. Food safety and security is a big issue with me, not because I want to be on Council, but because it is absolutely essential. Over the years I have worked as an ethnobotanist with Mary Thomas and Nancy Turner from UVic. I am a Charter member of the BC Herbal Association and am a Nutritional Consultant. High quality, locally and organically grown food isn’t or shouldn’t be a luxury and I am frequently horrified that we need to bring this to a political level to get it done. As with most things in the sometimes bizarre world we are living in, thinking outside the box and getting creative is the best way to move forward through the oftentimes entrenched thinking handed to us by multinationals and their government lobbyists.

5. Food production and transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. How importantly do you rate the production of food regionally, in an attempt to mitigate climate change?

A. I rate this very highly and not only to mitigate climate change. We need to support our local farmers and in particular those battling the endless regulations around organic farming, we can ensure our food is fresh and not picked ‘green’ and sprayed to prolong shelf-life. We can have a greater understanding of where the food is coming from and how it is produced.

6. Would you support the use of municipal lands and infrastructure to support the development of local food systems, for example for farmers markets, demonstration sites, farm incubators, leasing land to farmers, community gardens and food hubs?

The more of these the better, until it becomes ingrained that local food should be a first choice and is readily available and accessible. Growing up in Britain, many towns and cities had ‘plots’. Municipal land set aside and divided into plots that were rented out at a nominal fee. My father had one and I recall many wonderful summer weekends with him learning how to plant and weed (my job) and trying to identify all the insects we found. It was also a place of community and idea sharing. I learned much later in life that it was also my father’s ‘doghouse’.

7. Would you support a municipal food purchasing policy, embedding a 10% target for municipal outlets having food being produced from within the region?

A. I would need more information on this and how it would work, but in essence, yes I would.

8. What would you do to ensure that vulnerable populations have sufficient good, local food?

A. Second Harvest and the food bank does a phenomenal job in working with and providing for those who need their help. But as we have all seen recently the need is increasing. And we really do need to focus in, not just from a Council level but at a grass-roots level too, to make sure that nobody gets left behind. Another aspect that I am particularly passionate about is teaching young parents from all socioeconomic sectors how to prepare highly nutritious meals on a tight budget. Being a Nutritional Consultant, gardener and keen cook I have taught nutrition and food preparation to several interested groups throughout and outside of our region. In my first few classes, I was quite horrified to learn how little is known about basic nutrition and that Cheezies and pop can be considered ‘supper.’ From what I have seen there is a very real need to teach these basics in school, at the college, churches, First Nation communities, wherever we can, because at this point it really doesn’t exist in any organized way.

9. Would you support the development of a Regional Food Policy Council? What would you see as their most important task?

A. As with question 7 above I would need to see more information on this, but as you may have guessed by now, if it advocates for an integrated policy regarding food sustainability, then I would be very much in favour.

10. Would you advocate for the municipality to work with other levels of government on food security issues? What issues do you see as being a priority for this region to work on with other levels of government?

A. I’m going to put my political neck on the line here, but for me, passion and honesty should be spoken first. I would very much like for Salmon Arm to be declared a GMO free zone, it has happened in other communities. I don’t want GMO’s labelled, I want them gone! If I am elected I would be more than willing to spearhead this initiative, but one person can’t do it, we also need buy-in from the community and groups such as yours. If I am not elected I would still encourage whoever is on Council to move forward with this.

Two other things if I may.

I am also a bee-keeper. Colony Collapse Disorder is very real. A quote attributed to Einstein says that without the pollinators, mankind will survive for only four years, and I should imagine those four years being deeply unpleasant. Without pollinators, food safety and security is all but moot and efforts need to be made to encourage urban beekeeping, mason habitats etc.

As an ethnobotanist and having lived on the Neskonlith Reserve for almost two decades, I have learned a great deal, mostly from Mary, about traditional plants as a food source. Sadly, many of these plants are dying out in the wild due to a variety of factors and I would very much like to see partnerships made with First Nation groups to try and grow these foods on a small-scale commercial level. These plants offer amazing food and medicinal value and could easily create a fairly lucrative niche market if marketed well. Food for thought!

Kukstemc

Louise Wallace:

Here are my answers to the question posed in this week’s paper

1. The city controls land use and therefore does play a very significant role in planning and promoting sustainable food systems. What’s more, unlike many cities, we have dozens (if not hundreds) of farms within city limits. It’s who we are – a community deeply rooted in agriculture.

2. If elected, my priority would be the Product of the Shuswap initiative started by SAEDS (it’s much easier to eat local if we know what is local after all) and moving the agricultural curriculum in the new college plans as forward as I’m able.

3. Yes. I think I would. But I’m pleased you mentioned jurisdiction because we are duty bound to operate within it.

4. Agricultural land is sacred, in my view. While the province ultimately decides as I understand it, I would not support removing land out of the ALR unless it was for an agricultural college. Ideally, we could compensate with other arable land not in the ALR so it’s a net zero impact.

5. My sense here is local first. The more we produce locally, the better. However, agriculture is a business and our market may not be big enough to support itself. I welcome the opportunity for local producers to be able to sell elsewhere in the region and the province and the country. Having said that, I don’t buy grapes from California. It’s not a practical or sustainable course of action for me as a consumer or for us as a planet. I acknowledge that.

6. Absolutely yes. Can we have food instead of flowers in city planters? Or some balance of both? Can we adopt a stance similar to the CSRD and composting? They will come to my home and teach me how to compost. I only wish someone could come to my home and teach me how to grow a tomato. Kidding aside, these are skills we all need. There may well be a pilot project in the making here.

7. I think this is a question of education and awareness. I’m reluctant to agree to a “you must” policy rather than a “you should and here’s why” opportunity. I think a campaign to recognize the use of local food in local restaurants and the hospital in particular would work well. I know Shuswap Food Action had, at one point in time, considered implementing such a campaign. I would like to learn more about how it could be implemented and what the city could do to help promote it.

8. I work in the office above the Salmar Classic. Every Wednesday and Friday I marvel at the commitment of local volunteers to run the Second Harvest program in the basement of our building. I’ve watched residents deliver hundreds of pounds of produce of their own volition. It’s an amazing act of community commitment. Much happens in a small town on an informal basis. If there were some way to recognize and streamline how this happens, I would support that. However, it cannot add to the administrative burden these organizations already face as volunteer groups.

9. Yes. And the priority would be awareness. As a regular grocery shopper (mom of two growing boys), I question how we chose our produce knowing that our dollar goes further and our family’s nutrition is enhanced when we buy produce grown close to home.

10. Again, it’s a yes. And the priority for me as a person with training in economics, is to highlight the positive multiplier effect of supporting local producers.

Hope this helps. Thanks for all you do. Elected or not, I am grateful for the work that you are committed to as a volunteer group.

Ivan Idzan:

1. What do you think is the municipalities’ role in planning and promoting sustainable food systems.

Municipalities have the ability to support sustainable food systems within their jurisdictions through official community plans, zoning bylaws, and planning practices that encourage local agriculture and protect land for agricultural uses.  They can also promote and support local food producers through initiatives such as encouraging consumers to buy locally produced product and aiding in the development of local agri-tourism programs (some efforts to this effect are already under way in our region).  Municipal representatives can also work with other jurisdictions in lobbying upper levels of government (with their greater access to revenue sources) for better support of agriculture and sustainable food systems.

2. What would be your priority project related to food and agriculture over your term?

While there are several food and agriculture-related initiatives in development in the local area (efforts to expand Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus with additional agricultural programs in partnership with UFV; branding and promotion of local produce; development of haskap berry production), and these all deserve support from the council and City of Salmon Arm, they are not necessarily projects directly driven by the city.  I would like to work on Salmon Arm implementing some food production projects on municipal land, as has been demonstrated in other communities.  Initially, this would start with identifying what resources might be required from the city, and what obstacles might exist for Salmon Arm compared to other communities that already have such initiatives in place.

3. A Food Charter sets out a vision for a health oriented, local and equitable food system.  If elected, would you support the adoption of a Food Charter for your jurisdiction?

The City of Salmon Arm previously adopted a Food Charter in 2008, as a result of the efforts of the Shuswap Food Action Co-op’s predecessor the Shuswap Food Action Society (this occurred when I was on council).  I would support reviewing the charter in question, and updating and/or replacing it if appropriate, as well as discussing how such a food charter might be better incorporated in both local government policy and practice.

4. Is protecting farmland for future generations important to you?  Do you agree that all lands in the ALR should remain within the ALR?  Are there other ways that we can ensure land is available and accessible for growing food into the future?

Yes, protecting farmland is important to me for both the present and future.  I believe that the lands in the ALR should generally remain there (and that the ALC, if operated independent of provincial government interference, is best qualified to assess any exceptions).  I also believe that additional lands could be added, but that comes with additional hindrances for some property owners. Senior levels of government  – ideally working in conjunction with local governments – could do more to better support ALR-designated property owners and agricultural producers with making sure those lands are generally in viable production.

5. Food production and transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.  How importantly do you rate the production of food regionally, in an attempt to mitigate climate change?

I rate food production on a regional basis, relative to concerns about greenhouse gases and climate change, of high importance.  Considering recent predictions about expected significant food cost increases in Canada due to environmental challenges affecting production in places such as California, if I am likely to be paying more to eat, I would rather see more of those dollars go to the relatively local production of as much of that food as possible.

6. Would you support the use of municipal lands and infrastructure to support the development of local food systems, for example for farmers markets, demonstration sites, farm incubators, leasing land to farmers, community gardens, food hubs?

Yes, I would, and during my previous terms as a councillor I worked with the predecessor Shuswap Food Action Society in trying to plan some initiatives similar to these examples. While the city was instrumental in obtaining some third-party funding for those initial projects, the direct use of municipal lands and/or infrastructure didn’t occur at that time.  Now that local food action efforts have begun to mature, I am hoping that the next council will be inclined to make it a priority to offer additional municipal resources towards the development of local food systems.  There are examples of other communities that have such policies and practices already in place, so we don’t have to start from scratch.

7. Would you support a municipal food purchasing policy, embedding a 10% target for municipal outlets having food produced from within the region?

In concept, I would support such a policy, although I really need more information on what outlets would be involved, and examples of similar policies implemented elsewhere, in order to fully understand how such a policy might be implemented and promoted.

8. What would you do to ensure that vulnerable populations have access to sufficient, good, local food?

I would like to see local government play a role in the identification, coordination and promotion of existing initiatives to offer such food resources to vulnerable populations (and all local citizens), and where gaps are identified, review of whether local government resources might be able to help fill such gaps on either an interim or on-going basis.  Local government doesn’t have to offer the actual programs to provide good, local food, but it can help those who do.

9. Would you support the development of a Regional Food Policy Council?  What would you see as their most important task?

Not knowing all that a Regional Food Policy Council might entail, I will give a qualified yes.  Focusing on the regional aspect, a clear definition of the “region” is probably necessary (e.g., Shuswap-alone, Columbia-Shuswap, per the regional district boundardies, or the Shuswap and some/all of the surrounding Thompson-Okanagan?).  Establishing such a council seems like a reasonable idea, if its purpose and/or goals can be clearly defined without bogging down in jurisdictional minutiae.  As for the most important task, I see it it as being related to communication and coordination of local/regional efforts to encourage greater food production, accessibility, utilization, and overall awareness in the specified region.

10. Would you advocate for the municipality to work with other levels of government on food security issues?  What issues do you see as being a priority for this region to work on with other levels of government?

Yes.  Governments tend to develop policy and practice based on historic problems, challenges or concerns raised by resident citizens.  If those resident citizens, in significant numbers, are not actively expressing concerns about a given issue, such an issue tends not to be a high priority for the government.  However, considering growing concerns relative to climate change and food security, it seems appropriate to give food security some additional forethought (we all need to eat and should be able to afford healthy choices) by reaching out to all levels of government about how our community and larger society can make sure healthy food remains accessible and affordable to all.  Within our region, priority issues include identifying, documenting and promoting local food producers and their products as options for consumers; reviewing whether specific food producers and/or categories of products may need special supports or policies; and identifying gaps in food production and accessibility.

Tim Lavery:

1. What do you think is the municipalities’ role in planning and promoting sustainable food systems?

The city definitely can take an active role formally (through the OCP and other development bylaws) and informally by advocating for what the community would like to see. The key word is “active” and I’d push for this.

2. What would be your priority project related to food and agriculture over your term?

Local labelling and allocating municipal land would be two good and relatively easy to implement initiatives.

3. A Food Charter sets out a vision for health oriented, locals and equitable food system. If elected, would you support the adoption of a Food Charter for your jurisdiction?

Yes I would. While I’d certainly need to listen to the experts and review what others have proposed, a Charter is foundational in my opinion.

4. Is protecting farmland for future generations important to you? Do you agree that all lands in the ALR should remain within the ALR? Are there other ways that we can ensure land is available and accessible for growing food into the future?

The need for an independent ALC is more important than ever at the very time that its integrity has been compromised in my opinion. A key part of the question is the word “all”. I can’t commit to “all” but “most” plus any ALC application that garners a split in informed opinion should remain in the ALR. I would carefully scrutinize applications based on ‘marginality’ and would drill down and ask clarifying questions of city staff, the applicants and the ag committee. There needs to be a sense of integrity in our civic as well as provincial system.

I’d also want to have this discussion separately from any specific application. I’d like to see an genuine discussion of what seems to be differing priorities rather than the “cat and mouse” situation that seems to exist now between interests.

5. Food production and transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. How importantly do you rate the production of food regionally, in an attempt to mitigate climate change?

It’s of high importance. Our family supports local food producers and retailers who promote local/regional foods.

6. Would you support the use of municipal lands and infrastructure to support the development of local food systems, for example for farmers markets, demonstration sites, farm incubators, leasing land to farmers, community gardens and food hubs?

Yes. I believe that a start on this could be easily implementable.

7. Would you support a municipal food purchasing policy, embedding a 10% target for municipal outlets having food being produced from within the region?

I do even though 10% seems to set the bar a little too low. I’d like to review what other jurisdictions are doing. I also like the use of the word target. Much like the move towards carbon neutrality, municipalities vary as to whether they actually attain neutrality or are moving towards it. As a side bar, local governments get a fancy logo to use just because they ‘count’. Salmon Arm is in that “counting” cohort. When we start measuring our actions, we initiate a baseline, discussion and hopefully eventual change. This also is a great local partnering opportunity with the school district and other public sector organizations.

8. What would you do to ensure that vulnerable populations have sufficient good, local food?

This is a two part answer for me. There is a role for the city in coordination of information and planning but also the need to support what is in place. I really would want to avoid having civic bureaucracy injected into existing community providers. I would possibly consider dedicating a small budget line item for that coordination.

9. Would you support the development of a Regional Food Policy Council? What would you see as their most important task?

Yes. Most successful initiatives, like our trails systems, link with regional paths. Right now, it seems to me that greater advocacy and general awareness remain as early stage hurdles. Regional initiatives have an important role to play in influencing higher level governments.

10. Would you advocate for the municipality to work with other levels of government on food security issues? What issues do you see as being a priority for this region to work on with other levels of government?

My response for #9 is applicable here as well.

Thanks not only for the great questions but also your commitment.

Alan Harrison:

Thank you for the opportunity.  The questions were useful to me – they made me think!

1.  I think a Municipality’s role is one education and support.  We have active, qualified people in our community who are working hard to promote local, sustainable agriculture.  The City needs to make their job as easy as possible, both with local legislation and positive promotion.

2.  The recently completed Shuswap Agricultural Strategy has three proposed key strategies  and 19 recommended action areas to implement them.  There are roles for both our Economic Development Office and Council.  We need to follow through on these.

3.  I don’t know much about Food Charters, but am certainly willing to learn.  People change when they learn it is advantageous for them, not when they are told to.  A Food Charter needs to encourage and educate.

4.  Protecting farm land is important.  I believe the City has been very prudent and thoughtful in any applications forwarded to the Agricultural Land Commission.  The ALC does a good job of protecting farm land – I support the continued funding and a strong mandate for the ALC.

5.  I totally support local food producers.  Local food production is healthier, good for the local economy and more environmental.  The biggest challenge for our local producers is a shorter growing season than southern climates.

6.  I would support the use of appropriate municipal lands for agricultural uses given several criteria.  First, the initiative needs to come from the grass roots, not the City.  Second, the group who takes on the initiative needs to be self-sustaining.  The City needs to support these initiatives, not run them.

7.  I’m not sure I totally understand the question, but if it is, “Do I support a mandated 10% purchase of locally produced food by municipal food outlets?”, I wouldn’t support that.  This goes back to my earlier comment – we need to educate and promote, forcing doesn’t work.

8.  In my life outside of politics, I do my part to ensure that vunerable populations get to eat more healthy.  The City can help through facilitation of things like community gardens.

9.  What would a Regional Food Policy Council do?  Please give me more information on this.

10.  I think the City can help advocate to other levels of government on agricultural issues.  Legislation around agriculture is provincial and federal.  I support the lobbying of issues which promote/increase the knowledge of consumers, who ultimately decide on what agricultural products are grown.  An example is supporting the labelling of GMO products.

2 thoughts on “Shuswap Food Action Co-op Questions for Municipal Candidates”

  1. I’m running into some serious formatting issues posting up responses – I’m working on it and hopefully this will be fixed soon. Responses from Ruth Thomas, Louise Wallace, Ivan Idzan and myself have been forwarded from the Shuswap Food Action Co-op so far.

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