Rapid Action Resources for Local Governments: Community Food Production: Part II

Photo credit: Bobbi Barbarich

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, social and economic impacts continue to emerge for communities here in British Columbia. In response, PlanH has developed a series of Rapid Action Resources to support local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments with an understanding of the equity considerations around various aspects of food security, as well as examples demonstrating promising practices and approaches in food security from local governments across the province. Food security is complex and addressing the various aspects of food security—food systems and food insecurity—will require action at various levels to positively affect outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

This is part two of Community Food Production, and provides examples of partnership, policy, advocacy and investment being undertaken by local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments around the province.

In this series:

Sidebar: Community Food Production

Community food production includes activities that allow individuals to engage in production of food for themselves and for others in their community, rather than for sale or profit. This includes activities such as community, boulevard, and balcony gardens; food forestsmeal rotas

Community food production activities provide community members with opportunities that promote wellness through a variety of physical, mental, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual health benefits. In the first article for Rapid Action Resources, we outlined four dimensions of equity to consider when investing in community food production initiatives: money, use of space, access and time. The following are examples of Indigenous governments and local non-Indigenous governments who have acted as advocates, built partnerships, developed policy or invested some of their capacity to reduce barriers to participation and enhance overall community food security through community food production.


How can local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments invest in food security?

Reduce barriers to Community Food Production

As we explored in the first part of this resource, equitable community food production plays an important role in increasing food skills and knowledge. It can support healthy natural environments. It can also provide an array of health-promoting benefits to all community members. Below are some examples of ways that local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments are taking action to reduce barriers to community food production. 

Reduce financial barriers

Due to different financial circumstances, the accessibility of community food production activities—and their health-promoting benefits—are not the same for all community members. Local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments can take action to support equity and reduce the amount of money needed to participate in community food production. This would enhance access to spaces and programs for community members who need it most.

Example: Since the onset of COVID-19, the Heiltsuk Qqs Project Society, with support from the Nation’s hereditary and elected leadership, has been giving free garden starter kits and bags of soil to community members through its Granny Garden project. The Heiltsuk Nation recognizes that community food production not only strengthens its community’s food supply, but can also be healing and uplifting. Their garden serves as a powerful tool for cultural practice; improving community mental health and well-being.

Example: Entering its fifth year, the Healing City Soils (HCS) project is a partnership between the Compost Education Centre and Royal Roads University, offering free soil testing to aspiring urban agriculturalists. While temporarily paused due to COVID-19, funding provided by the Capital Regional District (CRD) continues to grow the project. Its interactive online soil quality map allows the public to have knowledge and confidence that the land they are using for community food production produces crops that are healthy to eat. 

Example: Recognizing that land costs are a large barrier for organizations looking to operate community gardens, the City of Williams Lake entered into a service agreement with the Williams Lake Food Policy Council to make land available for two community gardens. While not a significant cost to the city, using public land for community food production allows for greater access to the benefits of gardening for individuals and families who may not have access to land to grow food themselves.

Support equitable use of land and space

Equitable participation in community food production requires that all community members have access to arable land. They also need access to the space and tools necessary to process, prepare and share their harvests. Beginning with acknowledging that our current colonial model of land ownership limits access to land and space for many people, local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments can take actions that increase access to land and space for those who need it most.

Example: The Gitxaala Nation received financial support from the Port of Prince Rupert’s Community Investment Fund and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture towards the development of a garden, greenhouse and renovated kitchen space. These investments contributed to the implementation of the community’s Food Action Plan. Continued support from the Gitxaala Health Centre has allowed the community to employ a garden caretaker and two youth to work in the garden. Food harvested from the Gitxaala Community Garden produces Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)-style boxes. The boxes are distributed directly to Elders through the maternal health program and through the Lach Klan School breakfast program throughout the growing season. 

Example: The Lil’Wat Nation Community Land Use Plan supports community food production through multiple policies. One of the plan’s guiding agricultural principles is to ensure community access to medicinal non-timber forest products such as local mushrooms. By mapping, protecting, and preserving “special management zones” or “traditional plant gathering zones,” the plan ensures the longevity of important cultural teachings. Finally, it directs the community to incentivize local landowners who do not plan to grow food to make their land available to others who wish to farm. 

Example: As the City of Kamloops prepared for COVID-19 recovery, the Mayor’s Task Force recognized a more robust local food system could contribute to rebuilding Kamloops’ local economy and reducing vulnerabilities in the face of future emergencies. To ensure its plan was well-informed, the city consulted with the Kamloops Food Policy Council when developing their economic recovery plan. With a diverse team and extensive local relationships, the Food Policy Council provided wide-ranging recommendations, such as providing more community garden spaces on underutilized city land.

Support equitable geographic, physical and cultural access

Access to community food production can be inequitable depending on where community members live. Options for moving around a community and varying levels of physical ability also impact access to food production opportunities. Indigenous and non-Indigenous local governments can take actions to ensure that access to community food production is more equitable.

Example: There are current and historical colonial structures that create barriers to Indigenous communities’ use of traditional unceded territories for harvesting and hunting. Recognizing this, the Capital Regional District (CRD) partnered with W̱JOȽEȽP First Nation to address invasive deer species on Mayne Island. Hunters from the nation manage the deer population and are able to provide culturally-adapted food to their community. This partnership recognizes the importance of traditional ecological knowledge and hunting practices to strengthen ecosystem health. It is also an effort to support Indigenous food sovereignty and access to culturally appropriate food. This provides the nation with opportunities to pass down traditional hunting and food processing knowledge and to maintain cultural harvesting strategies. 

Example: The Pune’luxutth’ Tribe Marine Use Plan has an abundance of principles and objectives to ensure that the waters surrounding its community are protected for current and future generations. To do so, one strategy the plan recommends is to “work with elders and knowledge keepers to establish appropriate harvesting levels and practices.” Plans and implementation strategies like the Marine Use Plan are one way this community has re-established and preserved important cultural aspects of food, as well as the quality of the natural environments that produce food. 

Example: In order to provide clarity and ensure its community gardens are accessible, the City of Vancouver has produced a set of Operational Guidelines for Community Gardens on City Land other than City Parks. The guidelines are informed in part by challenges identified through partnership with the city’s Persons with Disabilities and Seniors Advisory Committees and have led to policies such as mandating fully-accessible pathways in community gardens to allow for access by all community members. 

Example: In 2017, the Town of Oliver developed the Food Secure Oliver Plan to increase food security in Oliver and Area C. The objectives include increasing the visibility and practice of growing food, with specific policy tools to expand the use of and connection with urban agriculture such as design guidelines for edible landscaping on public land. The plan promotes urban agriculture already permitted by zoning bylaws, such as the keeping of bees and hens. It also supports pilot projects to highlight innovative growing techniques. Food system opportunities were also integrated into the Downtown Revitalization Plan with the provision of healthy food sources, support for local food retail opportunities, and food celebrations. 

Example: The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area Plan is a high-level strategic plan that outlines assumptions, principles, goals, objectives and strategies for the integrated and holistic management of a large ocean area. The plan was developed through collaborative processes involving federal, provincial and Indigenous governments. It links ecosystem health to human health and well-being by incorporating social values from a wide range of partners and stakeholders. This example also serves as a reminder that governance and stewardship of food production includes aquatic ecosystems and that food production fits within a broad socioecological system. 

Example: The Central Okanagan Community Garden Society has a number of gardens with wheelchair accessible plots. The Ballou Community Garden is on land owned by the City of Kelowna and was funded by a grant from the Regional District of Central Okanagan. The land for the Hartman Road Community Garden was donated by the City of Kelowna, and funded by multiple non-profits. Each of these gardens has two raised, wheelchair accessible plots. This type of accessibility intervention provides an opportunity for community members with varying levels of physical ability to participate in community food production.

Reduce time-related barriers

Due to inequitable financial and health circumstances, the amount of time community members have to participate in community food production varies immensely. Local Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments can take actions to reduce the time constraints community members face in order to support those who want to spend more time participating in community food production activities.

Example: Through their Wellness Centre’s rooftop garden initiative, the Songhees Nation is helping to create a sustainable food system at the centre. By choosing a location central to many community activities, barriers community members face regarding the amount of space and time needed for growing food are being reduced. After securing an external grant to get started, the nation has strengthened a number of multisectoral partnerships to improve food access. With ongoing support from the Songhees Health Department, the garden—along with other food programs—provides year-round access to fresh produce and continues to expand education on growing, harvesting and processing nutritious food. 

Example: The City of Trail’s IncrEDIBLE Trail Green Route links together an assortment of edible planter boxes that are hosted outside of participating businesses. What started as a small series of edible greenery in the downtown core has expanded to storefronts scattered throughout the community. When running errands or going about other daily activities, community members are now able to save time by picking a few dinner ingredients from the IncrEDIBLE Trail Green Route rather than going to the store. 

Example: Prior to COVID-19, the City of Kamloops and Interior Health were both attendees at a monthly potluck put on by the Kamloops Food Policy Council. Although just one night a month, these community-based meals can save households time preparing that night’s dinner—though bringing something to share is always encouraged—while also providing an opportunity to connect with others and build the community’s sense of social connectedness.

In the next part of this series, we will look at Indigenous governments and non-Indigenous local governments’ role in local food supply systems. Stay with us as we explore issues around equitable production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste of food, as well as the market forces that impact B.C. communities.

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