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How Burnaby plans to bolster food security through a Food Systems Strategy

Burnaby is one step closer to finalizing its Food Charter and Food Systems Strategy.

By Simran Singh | May 26, 2022 |5:00 am

Burnaby is one step closer to finalizing its Food Charter and Food Systems Strategy.

The city is currently in Phase 3 of its Burnaby Food Systems Strategy (BFSS) project, which involves drafting the plan.

According to the city, the purpose of the BFSS is to improve the “quality, fairness, and sustainability of Burnaby’s food systems”, and it has two main goals: to increase food security and food sustainability.

During Tuesday evening’s social planning committee meeting, Janine de la Salle of Urban Food Strategies – a food system consultation and planning organization – presented a draft of the strategy to committee members.

de la Salle began by briefly touching on Burnaby’s draft Food Charter, which lays out the city’s values and commitments for the community’s food system.

The charter lists six key values to guide decision-making around food systems and security, which include recognizing food as culture and connection, ensuring everyone has a choice of food and access to food they want and respecting Indigenous values and knowledge.

Burnaby food systems strategy
Draft of Burnaby’s Food Charter/ (Food Charter Draft Document)

de la Salle then went on to present the BFSS draft, which has six goals: protect and grow cultural food assets in Burnaby; support existing food scrutiny programs; encourage growing your own food; grow the local food economy and small local food businesses; address root causes of food insecurity; and build capacity for change.

Each of these goals also includes more specific objectives, which can be found in the chart below.

Burnaby food systems strategy
Draft of Burnaby Food Systems Strategy (Screenshot)

Following the presentation of the BFSS draft plan, there were some questions from committee members.

Elie Lubendo noted that Objective 4.1—‘Target public realm improvements/ revitalization in cultural districts—also needed to include an accessibility lens.

“My question is: what kind of conversations have you had with the transportation plan and the city staff that work with the transportation plan in terms of how to make these food districts, these cultural food districts, more accessible?” Lubendo asked, noting that many low-income neighbourhoods that are more food insecure may not have access reaching services and community supports.

de la Salle noted that she would be supportive of including accessibility as an action area in that specific objective. “I think we should acknowledge that … getting around and getting to food assets can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a car.”

Committee member Doris Mah had a question around Objective 3.1, ‘Encourage front and backyard garden and produce sharing’, asking specifically how to make it easier for residents to connect with neighbourhood organizations, like the Burnaby Neighborhood House, to donate their homegrown produce.

de la Salle said this type of correspondence would require liaising with Burnaby’s social service providers.

“I think that’s a role the city could play to make those connections,” she said. “Connecting those two dots would be a really important symbol of community care; it would also provide tangible fresh produce that is highly nutritious to people who need it. It’s just, the devil’s in the details with that one, and how do we do that in a way that does not overwhelm facilities or people that are already feeling overwhelmed.”

Coun Colleen Jordan, who is also the committee chair, stressed the importance of food safety when it comes to food sharing. “We have rules, so we don’t kill people,” she quipped.

Coun Alison Gu, who is not part of the social planning committee, but attended the presentation had a question around Objective 1.2, ‘Protect cultural food assets in Burnaby’, asking if there were processes or systems that could be established to allow staff and council to identify “tangible cultural food assets.”

She provided the example of several Filipino restaurants near Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain Station in Vancouver that faced demolition due to a new condo development project.

“Without the community coming forward to council, …I think the Collingwood Neighbourhood House supported in facilitating that organizing work, I don’t know if Vancouver council would have been aware that those businesses were considered cultural food assets. I don’t want to set staff or council up for failure but I also don’t want to put the onus always on the community to be able to have the time and resources to come forward and bring voices together,” said Gu.

de la Salle highlighted the idea of creating a cultural food inventory “to understand what are the cultural food assets in Burnaby, whether they’re tangible or intangible and perhaps there’s a community engagement process that happens along with that where people are encouraged to come and tell us where you like to shop, where you like to eat.”

The city has already taken several steps to kickstart the BFSS goals and objectives, including approving a community garden pilot program, and a backyard chicken program.

The next steps for the BFSS will be to incorporate committee feedback, and have one last session before the draft comes before city council sometime this summer.

Simran Singh

Managing Editor at Burnaby Beacon

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