Nearly two years ago, the Gateway featured the emerging work of food security groups and local government staff from across Metro Vancouver, Squamish, and the Sunshine Coast building a collaborative movement to advance municipal food policy across the region. Learn more in this brief video: Taking Root: Food Policy through Collaboration.
Since then, the BC Food Systems Network (BCFSN), Population and Public Health team at the BC Centre for Disease Control, and the regional health authorities have worked together to support food security groups across the province to champion food policy in their communities.
One support is a vibrant Community of Practice (COP) that connects monthly via video conference to grow relationships, share resources and strategize together on common challenges. This work is informing a forthcoming toolkit. Krystle tenBrink and Michalina Hunter with Squamish CAN (Climate Action Network) have participated in the Community of Practice since the beginning.
Thanks to coaching from BCFSN, they were able to consider different models of food policy councils and to seek funding to lay the groundwork. A critical $50 000 funding commitment from the Real Estate Foundation of BC enabled Squamish CAN to devote staff time and expertise to creating the Squamish Food Policy Council (SFPC). Krystle notes,
We chose a hybrid food policy council with indirect support from local government so they still fund us, but they’re not the sole funders. If I had to do this all over again I would do the exact same thing. Local government participates, but we have freedom to set the vision.
A district council liaison, a city planner- Sarah McJannet, featured in Taking Root- and Gerry Kasten, a VCH Public Health dietitian are the official liaisons to the SFPC along with regular participation from the school district and other civil society representatives.
What keeps the work of the group anchored is the Squamish Food Charter. “The Food Charter is on a pedestal and we constantly refer to it. It is our strongest reference point [to keep us focused].
A major policy win for SFPC is the strong representation of food systems in the Official Community Plan (OCP). “We went from one sentence in the last OCP which read we support food security, to six pages on food system work in the new OCP.”
One of the goals identified in the OCP was to identify and plan for more food assets in the region. The resulting food asset map covers not only Squamish, but neighbouring Pemberton, Lillooet, and Whistler. As Krystle elaborates,
We were able to approach these other communities and say, we’re doing this, should we add you to it? Would you like to participate? How can we work together? It’s been powerful to be able to share the resources we have.
Krystle notes the incredible development pressure in Squamish and region and this reality is informing their next goal- developing a community farm. They are tapping into the emerging work of the Foodlands Cooperative of B.C. “We look forward to learning from others around the province- collaborating and learning together is key.”