Food strategy necessary in Nanaimo

To the Editor,

Re: Food in focus, May 24.

It seems our food increasingly comes to us through chain grocery stores via truck, ferry and plane whether from this continent or distant countries.

The grocery stores look for large producers able to fill their demand for volume in order to be competitive. Food is cheap so small farmers find it difficult to survive yet food banks continue to struggle to feed many in our community.

Government cutbacks threaten food inspection and the new provincial Animal Health Act will restrict our right to know about disease in food.

So under the present system we cannot be sure how safe our food is to eat, that the supply will not be interrupted or that everyone can afford good food.

Nanaimo is working toward encouraging urban food gardens and permits residents to have a few back yard poultry, we have farmers markets and community gardens, so some people are able to grow their own food or purchase locally.

We are taking small slow steps to feed ourselves in a sustainable way.

The historic Third Street Farm has been approved for a housing development ahead of the neighbourhood planning process for the Harewood/Third Street Corridor.

The purchase of this land could have been an opportunity for a vibrant educational project able to produce food for the neighbourhood and protect the Cat Stream.

Unfortunately the neighbourhood did not know the land was for sale until an open house held by the developer revealed that the green space was going to undergo a huge change.

Gathering information about the rezoning process and how we could have input went on for almost a year before the public hearing took place. At that point, city staff and the developer had invested many hours working on the plan, in fact for years longer than residents were aware.

So it’s hardly surprising the bylaw was adopted despite neighbourhood concerns.

Interpretation of what fits the OCP certainly varies depending on one’s viewpoint so neighbourhood input is vital and surely could have actually been effective earlier in the process.

There is something wrong with a process which only allows for public input  at the final stage.

Now the Your Voice/Our Nanaimo project is progressing to a final public meeting, I hope Nanaimo does institute a food strategy which will truly protect land from development and support local agriculture.

Of course, we should have an Island-wide strategy but perhaps the upcoming Harewood/Third Street Corridor Neighbourhood Plan (www.nanaimo.ca/goto/harewood) will be a beginning by protecting any remaining ‘five acres’ land for local food production.

I don’t want to see Samuel Robins’s vision  fade away at a time when our population is increasing and children continue to grow up in poverty in Nanaimo. I look forward to reading more in the News Bulletin about what’s happening regarding food and development.

Margaret Dyke


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