Maintaining a resilient food system is essential to feed and nourish a growing global population. Food systems are also closely linked to environmental sustainability including, land use & agriculture, water cycle management,food waste treatment and recovery, and climate change - especially considering the carbon footprint of food in an increasingly globalised marketplace.
The Metropolitan Region of Vancouver (Metro Vancouver) is very diverse; it comprises 21 municipalities - including the City of Vancouver, one treaty First Nation and one electoral area. There are watersheds to the north of the cities, agricultural lands to the south , and coastline to the west.
To better coordinate the food system at a regional level, Metro Vancouver initiated a Regional Food System Strategy (RFSS) in 2008. The strategy was adopted in 2011 with a vision to create, “a sustainable, resilient and healthy food system that will contribute to the well-being of all residents and the economic prosperity of the region while conserving our ecological legacy.”
The RFSS considers the role of stakeholders across the entire food system. It is organised within 5 goals and 21 strategies that highlight opportunities for all levels of government, the private sector and civil society.
Five goals of the Vancouver Regional Food System Strategy:
- Increase capacity to produce food closer to home
- Improve the financial viability of the food sector
- People make healthy and sustainable food choices
- Everyone has access to healthy, culturally diverse and affordable food
- A food system consistent with ecological health
Implementation of the RFSS involves actions of local governments, who are directly engaging with key stakeholders in the food system, e.g. farmers, business, community organizations and residents. An Action Plan for local governments was developed collaboratively by Metro Vancouver with member municipalities. Input was also provided by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Advisory Committees, and other stakeholders that participated in a series of three Roundtable events hosted by Metro Vancouver in 2013 and 2014.
The Action Plan uses the RFSS goals and strategies to identify 160 actions that are being undertaken by local governments. Example actions include the protection of agricultural land, sustainable procurement of local produce, and the promotion of local farmers markets. The plan also outlines a number of joint actions that municipalities aim to undertake collaboratively.
The RFSS is just one of several regional plans developed around Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Framework. Other regional management plans which intersect with the RFSS include Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future (regional growth strategy), the Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan, Integrated Liquid Waste and Resource Management Plan, Affordable Housing Strategy, Drinking Water Management Plan, Air Quality Management Plan, and the Parks and Greenways Plan. The different regional plans are consciously integrated with one another at the administrative level.
As a regional body, Metro Vancouver can realise greater synergies by linking efforts of urban and rural municipalities, which might otherwise have implemented policies that were less beneficial to the whole region, or less ambitious.
The RFFS was cross-sectoral in nature and looked to work across traditional policy-making silos such as waste management, agriculture, industry, etc. While a systems approach is highly desirable, working together takes time, effort and often innovation, to advance collaborative actions.
Metro Vancouver made significant effort to include a wide range of stakeholders to co-create the strategy and action plan. This approach was important because local government actions that can create partnerships within civil society, who are already active in addressing food system issues.
To ensure the successful implementation of the Action Plan, it was recommended that local governments appoint at least one member of staff with responsibility for the RFFS. Those jurisdictions that have staff dedicated to agriculture and food issues are best able to accomplish the actions set out in the plan and collaborate with other stakeholders including community groups and provincial government agencies.
The RFFS shows a more strategic, integrated and long-term approach to food resilience and sustainability that other regions or metropolitan areas could do worse than replicate. GML 7