Bringing the Food Charter to Life in Thunder Bay

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Speaker: Catherine Schwartz Mendez …

Speaker: Catherine Schwartz Mendez
Session: Beyond Food Charters: Approaches to Developing Meaningful Food Policy

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  • The city of Thunder Bay is one of the main hubs and the largest city in Northwestern Ontario which covers a huge expanse. We have two health unit districts in Northwestern Ontario, the Thunder Bay District health Unit and the Northwestern Health Unit. TBDHU covers the eastern half and Northwestern the other part, west of Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border. We also have over 20 remote First Nations communities technically under Federal jurisdiction, but that fluid population moves back and forth between home reserves and Thunder Bay, so we have an increasing and comparably young urban aboriginal population.
    Our summers are short with only about 90 frost-free days, however the longer days through the growing season do make up for some of it.
    We also have a small but very active agricultural community, 840 farms (dairy, beef, other animals, vegetables, greenhouses) the majority of farmers , as elsewhere, require off-farm second jobs to make ends meet.
    NAN Food Strategy
    Strengths – amount of farm land, geographically isolated is a positive and negative, health unit support, growing support from city departments, grassroots groups like R2H employing youth increasing access to locally grown food,
    Benefits to northern farming:
    Land values
    Land quality and potential for expansion
    Great place to raise a family
    Short flight to Southern Ontario
    Northern Climate
    Climate change and research and development will make more crops possible
    Very active agricultural communities
    Many success stories to celebrate in the North!
    Number of Part-time
    farmers is rising significantly
    Challengesto northern farming
    Climate
    Labour
    Market access
    Lack of infrastructure
    Wildlife
    Difficult to access
    education and learning opportunities
  • Currently, most of our food is trucked an average of 3500 km from elsewhere.
    Most of our food comes to a centralized food terminal (either Winnipeg or Toronto for Thunder Bay bound goods) and redistributed.
    And the trucks hauling the foodstuffs burn up fossil fuels, never to be recovered, so the environmental damage due to food travel distances becomes significant.
    We currently have an estimated 3-day supply to feed our city. With only three routes coming into Thunder Bay, the two directions along the Trans-Canada highway and from the US. If the trucks stopped tomorrow, how would we feed ourselves?
    Of course since food has to travel further we also have higher food prices, our NFB survey shows it’s an average of $60 a month higher than the provincial average for a family of four.
    Our foodbanks have seen a huge increase in use over the last 5 years with the downturn in the economy which actually started a few years before the rest of the province, because of the decline in the forestry sector.
  • The Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station, on the south boundary of the City, conducts research on a range of forage crops and specialty crops to promote diversification of the agricultural industry in Northwestern Ontario.
    And the Food Security Research Network, administered through Lakehead University, demonstrates a new way of addressing food security, coupling university resources – faculty, students and staff – with dedicated Northwestern Ontario partners to further students’ and the community’s knowledge of food security issues.
    The Food Action Network has been bringing partners together since 1995 to address hunger and increasingly, local food system issues. We have a number of collaborative food security projects and a very successful Get Fresh eat local campaign that includes a guide to local producers and restaurant/caterers sourcing local food as well as a practical workshop series during the summer on what food is available and how to store and cook with it.
    These are all initiatives that are addressing different aspects of the food system. These different projects are a point of entry into a more sustainable food system that works better for communities ie economic, social, environmental.
  • What led us to the strategy:
    Food charter
    Strategic plan
    Official Plan
    EarthCare
    Food action programs – increase access, build constituency
    Community Garden Policy
    Community food forums
    Identifying the pillars
    Food Charter - A set of principles that guide decisions for food security, to ensure access to enough nutritious food for everyone to be healthy
    Developed by the Food Action Network (FAN) with community support via the EarthWise Community Environmental Action Plan (2008)
    Adopted by Thunder Bay City Council and the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board
    It is supported by policies in the City’s Official Plan and Community Environmental Action Plan. Its value is in the framework it offers for dialogue on the interface between land use planning and strategizing for food security. The Charter is founded on the idea that everyone should have access to enough nutritious food to have energy for daily life. It provides focus to the issues of food security and was the jumping off point for showing a public commitment to addressing the issues through municipal actions.
    The Charter was developed by the Food Action Network (FAN) and adopted by Thunder Bay City Council and the Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board in 2008. These six principles make up the Food Charter that guide the City’s decisions about food security.
  • Goal: a robust local food system that creates jobs, improves health, encourages community involvement and education, build local responsibility, support equitable food distribution, increase tourism, reduce GHG emissions, and entrench community-based food policies.
    Calls for a strategy
    Gives it more leverage, foot in the door
  • The City’s Official Plan (2005) is very clear about the importance of protecting agricultural lands and rural areas from sprawling residential development in order to promote agriculture, and with the urban area limit, to accommodate smaller-scale agriculture, which is defined as personal farming.
    Viable farm operations are protected through policies related to distancing non-agricultural uses, mainly residential uses, from livestock operations. Rural-related industries, such as farm supply sales and animal product processing, are permitted in rural designated areas of the City.
    Rural land use designations comprise 44%, or almost half, of the total corporate land area of this city so potentially more hectares within the City limits could be devoted to growing food.
    What it is lacking is more focus on supporting urban agriculture – plants and animals and food programs, zoning around schools, and other recreational facilities where children and youth frequent, and recognizing and protecting urban forests as food sources.
  • Food is a vehicle for change – food strategy project is a way of reaching many of the city’s goals for economic development, beautification, crime prevention, sustainability from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reduced waste etc.
    Wayne’s key messages from Feb 25/26
  • • Graphic recording unified and communicated each session giving us a graphic representation of our work to carry forward
    Great local food meals demonstrated it is possible, even at the end of March!
    March 29 afternoon - Preparing the Ground – Celebrating what has brought us to this point.
    Covered CFS/Local Sustainable Food System from A-Z
    And a Lifeline Exercise to capture significant events and milestones
    Discussed SOAR – Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results
    Evening
    What is a Food System, What is a Food Strategy and How Are They Connected?
    Panel of Food Stakeholders and then worked on defining key projects and quick wins
    March 30 Session 3 morning
    Northern Grown Film
    Group Activity: World Café and Next Steps
    People actually wanted to keep working through what was meant to be a celebratory lunch!
    Food as a Human Right – Access to good food for all
    Urban Agriculture – continue to support and expand community gardens, support backyard chickens, consider edible landscaping and protect urban forests.
    Support a universal school food program to ensure access to all to meal and snack programs, and embed food literacy in the curriculum, support school gardens and create healthy food zones around schools.
    Define and support community food centres/hubs that provide space for neighbourhood residents to come together around food.
    Establish local food infrastructure through regional food clusters for storage, processing and distribution.
    Expand public procurement of local, sustainably-produced food to improve foods served and sold in public venues and encourage institutional buying of healthy local food.
    Report, photos and presentations will be posted on northernfoodconnections.ca, once available
  • Board garden policies and procedures
    Healthy Food Zones – used GIS mapping - realized we needed more information about what’s available around schools, what students buy, how far they go and why they leave
    - The proportion of students who leave school to purchase food is correlated with the number of eating establishments within 600 m of a school, although students still leave even if they don’t have any within that distance.
    - The solutions for the zoning issue is longer term – we could use by-laws to increase distance from schools – but that would only affect new schools being built – we can’t do anything about existing, zoning wise, we could work with existing establishments, but that will take time – still considering
    Decided in the short-term to work on cafeterias – improve environment and food that’s offered - led to “caf survey” and “farm to caf”
    Farm to Caf is a pilot project in four high schools attempting to integrate local foods into the cafeteria menus. The high schools are in the public board in which cafeterias are independently run compared to catholic board that has thrid party food service run by Aramark.
    Four local food feature meals were served at each school from September to November for $5 each, and students and staff were surveyed to find out their thoughts about the meal.
    Food items included a combination of burgers, pulled pork, coleslaw, corn on the cob, squash soup, and roasted and mashed potatoes.
    The aim of this project was to approach the inclusion of local food in cafeteria menus within a business model context, keeping the bottom line in site while at the same time, raising the bar for what the cafeterias offer their students.
  • Over 1300 Thunder Bay students in grades 7-12 surveyed to discover how they use and interact with the food environments around their schools.
  • Red Cross and Roots to Harvest – working in schools to offer salad bars, farm to caf and with classes
  • – farmers get higher return on direct sales and restaurant/caterers
    we need more farmers, we have the land – looking into promoting our area to new farmers, training/mentorship programs and other incentives
    Lack storage, distribution, processing infrastructure – centralized in Manitoba and S. Ont.
  • Questions?

Transcript

  • 1. Bringing the Food Charter to Life in Thunder Bay Catherine Schwartz Mendez, Public Health Nutritionist Bring Food Home Conference 2013
  • 2. Our Local Food System • Geographically isolated • Canadian shield • Northern climate • Many First Nations communities, growing urban Aboriginal population • Very active agricultural communities, increasing number of part-time farmers 
  • 3. Local Food Issues Our complex, linear, dependent, industrialized food system: • Food travels great distances to get to us • Higher food prices • Higher cost of a Nutritious Food Basket • Higher food insecurity
  • 4. Strategic Advantages of Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy • Historic role of Thunder Bay as transportation and service hub the logical place to centre a regional food strategy • Thunder Bay’s strategic location at the head of Lake Superior protects and opens unique opportunities to link food and employment, food and nutrition, and food and community improvement
  • 5. Putting Policy into Action Who’s doing what? • Northwestern Ontario food agriculture - with unique benefits and challenges! • Food research and education • Food security initiatives - Food Action Network partnerships - Community Gardens & Kitchens - Good Food Box, School Nutrition Programs, Gleaning - Get Fresh Guide and workshops - RFDA, R2H, True North Co-op - Farmers’ Markets
  • 6. Food Policy in Action City of Thunder Bay Food Charter • Build community economic development • Ensure social justice • Foster population health • Celebrate culture and collaboration • Preserve environmental integrity
  • 7. Including Food in the Community Environmental Action Plan
  • 8. City of Thunder Bay 2011-2014 Strategic Plan Implementation • Strategic Plan supports development of comprehensive local food strategy • To be undertaken by Steering Committee representing food system sectors and area community Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy Steering Committee
  • 9. Building food into the City of Thunder Bay Official Plan Photo courtesy of Vidioman:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thunder_Bay_City_Hall_2010.jpg
  • 10. Ask not what a city can do for food, but what food can do for a city – Wayne Roberts
  • 11. Food Summit March 2012
  • 12. Food Summit April 2013
  • 13. City of Thunder Bay Food Action Network Surrounding Thunder Bay Municipalities Regional Food Strategy District Health Unit Thunder Bay Federation of Agriculture
  • 14. The 7 Pillars for Policy & Action • Access to Healthy Food • Forest and Freshwater Food • Farm-scale Food Production • Food Infrastructure • Urban Agriculture • Local Food Procurement • Healthy School Food Environments
  • 15. Healthy Eating Makes the Grade • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Canadian Red Cross Thunder Bay District Health Unit City of Thunder Bay – city planners and city councillor Roots to Harvest 3 School Boards Students Parents Teachers Resource Librarians School Administrators School Board Trustees and Superintendents Cafeteria Staff Daycare Staff Board Purchasers Communications Officers Food Producers and Retailers Lakehead University Wider School Community
  • 16. The Goal of HEMG To improve student health by increasing access to healthier food options in and around schools in Thunder Bay.
  • 17. August 2010 – July 2013 • Heart and Stroke Foundation Spark Grants $5000 + $50,000(2 yrs) • Coordinator, workshops, catering, tour, supplies, teacher release time
  • 18. Working Groups Healthy Food Zones around schools Healthier School Food Choices   Youth Food Ambassador Program High School Cafeterias Support for School Food Gardens Build Coalition Capacity
  • 19. Healthy Zones around Schools
  • 20. Institutional Buying Challenges •Limited supply •Lack of Infrastructure •Business planning Opportunities •Some interested farmers •Plenty of good land •Institutions are interested and equipped •Good relationships
  • 21. Thank you! catherine.schwartz@tbdhu.com kendal@ecosuperior.org