What are the backyard chicken bylaws in Vancouver? How about Squamish, or Victoria? The answer is now just a click away.
The Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) has developed a searchable, online database of municipal food system policy in B.C. to help local governments and any other interested stakeholders easily cross-reference existing policies on everything from urban farm business licences to agricultural zoning.
“When working with local government, we were often told by staff that while they are aware of policy proposals and changes in their own communities, they are challenged to keep abreast of policies being advanced in other municipalities across the province,” said Naomi Robert, a researcher with ISFS who led the development of the database. “Many simply do not have the time to research policy options while others are using precious resources to develop policy that could already exist elsewhere.”
In response, and with funding provided by the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., ISFS developed an accessible database with over 2,000 food system policy references from more than 50 cities, towns, and communities. As a centralized resource for B.C. food system policy, the database allows planners, city staff, community advocates and other stakeholders across the province to quickly research existing policy and access key information that will facilitate the development of new policy to advance sustainable food systems in their communities. All of these policies can be easily searched by users according to topic, geographic properties, community demographics, or policy type.
“I will absolutely use this in my work,” said Marie Fenwick, parks program manager for City of Richmond. “For example, City Council has asked staff to explore the creation of a food system advisory committee. I performed a search on this subject and it was very easy to find information on what other municipalities are doing. I can see myself using this database to gather information on a wide variety of topics.”
The potential for the database as a planning tool extends beyond B.C. The Institute has teamed up with researchers from the University of Alberta who are replicating the resource to assist food system planning efforts in Alberta. There is a recognized need for these types of tools to help those working in the policy field to easily transfer information across jurisdictions.
“A sustainable food system, appropriate for the 21st century and our communities, won’t happen on its own,” said Dr. Kent Mullinix, director of ISFS. “We have to work together, support one another, to create our food system future. The policy database that ISFS created is one effort to do just that.”
To use the database, visit kpu.ca/isfs/foodpolicydatabase.
Story by Tatiana Tomljanovic