Food and Agriculture in the City

If a city wishes to be sustainable, and in a position to adequately provide for its citizens when current supplies of imported foods are no longer readily available, then a top priority must be to ensure that it has the ability to produce quality food locally. With that in mind, there are immediate benefits that include financial, environmental, and social which can be experienced by encouraging the growth and development of a strong locally based agriculture program in the Capital Region and within the city limits. The City of Edmonton understands that this is not only an opportunity to improve our resilience, but a requirement. In response to this, in 2011 the City of Edmonton initiated a comprehensive Food and Agriculture Strategy that the Mayor has asked me to be the Council liaison for.

This strategy has gone through several very important stages over the lifespan of the project and I am proud of the work that has been done.  In May of 2012, City Administration hosted the Food in the City Conference where members of the public, along with business and government leaders, had the opportunity to hear experts explain the potential for supporting and growing a local sustainable food growth program.

In November of 2011, an Advisory Committee was formed which consisted of local individuals who have an interest, and often a background, in the food growth sector.  The Advisory Committee was tasked with producing a food strategy policy.  Completed in the fall of 2012, the policy document entitled fresh outlined key goals for Edmonton: 1) a stronger, more vibrant local economy 2) a healthier more food secure community 3) a more vibrant, attractive and unique place 4) producing less emissions and waste 5) healthier ecosystems.

With the publication of fresh, and as City Administration begins to implement the suggestions and works to achieve the goals of strategy, the work of the Advisory Committee was completed.  The project moved to another stage, which has seen the creation of the Edmonton Food Council that is tasked with advising City Administration on matters of food and urban agriculture and to take an active role in the implementation of fresh.  The Food Council has the core functions of acting as an advisor to Administration on priorities and work plans, researching and evaluating emerging issues and the progress of the strategy, coordinating collaboration opportunities between community partners and Administration for implementing fresh, and finally being an educator and engaging the public on the importance of food and urban agriculture topics.

As this project continues to move ahead, and the concepts of fresh are implemented by City Administration and championed by the Edmonton Food Council, Edmonton will begin to realize the benefits of a strong local food and agriculture system.  Our economy will be strengthened with significantly greater amounts of money staying in our local region rather than being shipped to markets in other countries all over the world.  We will have reduced the amount of pollution created from the transportation of foods from other markets.  Our community and cultural roots will be further established as citizens shop in farmers markets and get to know those who have grown the food they are now consuming.  Finally, and I think most importantly, Edmonton will have significantly increased secure access to food, which as we move into a future where there are many unknowns, it is imperative to be as resilient as possible and by strengthening our local food system this has been increased considerably.

To see how this project began, and to see where it is now, and the benefit that Edmonton is experiencing has been an exciting and inspiring journey.  I look forward to seeing our Administration continue to implement the concepts of fresh and I will continue to promote and advocate for a strong locally based food and agriculture system here in Edmonton.

For more information on fresh, please visit: https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/initiatives_innovation/food-and-urban-agriculture.aspx

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