City shows appetite for food strategy

NANAIMO – Public, local stakeholders begin work to develop official plan.

Nanaimo residents have an appetite for a municipal food strategy.

Earlier this month, more than 65 people attended a workshop to begin the discussion on a local food strategy that includes food security, developing local food systems, encouraging partnerships in food distribution and ensuring access to nutritious food for all of Nanaimo’s citizens.

Deborah Jensen, community development planner for Nanaimo, said the intent of the workshop was to begin a discussion on the direction to take for a local food strategy.

“We discussed what is food and how does it relate specifically to Nanaimo and what makes Nanaimo unique when it comes to food,” said Jensen. “There was a lot of talk about community gardens, there was a lot of talk about how we market ourselves, how local farmers can get food to local markets, how to make food more affordable. Some of it was very specific and some of it was more of an overview.”

In 2011, the City of Nanaimo was given $9,500 in grant money from Vancouver Island Health Authority to initiate the development of a food charter after the city included it as a priority in its 2008 official community plan.

The March 9 workshop, which included a presentation called Energizing a Unique Food Culture and Economy in Nanaimo by guest speaker Mark Holland, was the first step in developing the strategy.

“I attended and it was exciting to spend some time there,” said Coun. Fred Pattje. “At some point somebody asked me why is the city in the business of food security. Well, it is part of the community plan and I think it’s a very appropriate thing for us to be involved in.”

City staff are now in the process of absorbing the input provided at the workshop and will put an outline before council before further public consultation takes place.