How to Use the Database

Which municipalities are included in the database?

What policy information is included in the database?

What is food system policy?

Food system policy includes and policy (bylaw, regulation, procedure, plan or directive) that impacts the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population. This includes food production, harvesting, processing, distribution, marketing, access, consumption and waste management as well as the education and economic development surrounding these components of the food system.

Local Government Policy

Local government policy documents were scanned to identify the relevant policies that impact food systems. Selected policy was gathered from municipal websites and categorized by general theme (topic) and specific theme (subtopic) prior to being added to the database. The following description provides more details regarding which policies are included in the database.

i. Regulatory bylaws including but not limited to those pertaining to:

  • Animal control
  • Pesticide use and regulation 
  • Deposit of fill and soil removal 
  • Soil conservation

ii. Selected content from zoning bylaws including but not limited to:

  • Permitted uses in:
    • Agricultural zones
    • Zones specific to food processing, food storage, food retail, urban agriculture, farmers' markets, demonstration farms and agricultural industry services
  • Regulation of:
  • Home plate size
  • Livestock
  • Maximum farm residence set-back
  • Farm retail and farm gate sales
  • Food processing
  • Agri-tourism accommodations and agri-tourism uses
  • Farm worker accommodations
  • Home occupation/home-based businesses as they pertain to food and agriculture


iii. Selected content from Official Community Plans (B.C) or Municipal Development Plans (AB) that was determined to relate to agriculture and food systems (see inclusion criteria below).


iv. Food Charters


v. Selected content from Food Strategies (see inclusion criteria below)


vi. Selected content from Agricultural Area Plans (see inclusion criteria below)


vii. Other policy documents pertaining to food systems including, but not limited to, Guidelines, Memoranda of Understanding, Bulletins, Social Plans, Strategic Plans etc.

Inclusion criteria and language rating for high level planning documents

Policies from high level planning documents, including Official Community Plans (Municipal Development Plans in Alberta) and Food Strategies, were selected for inclusion in the database if they satisfied all of the following criteria:

1) The policy goes "above and beyond" regulating to an existing standard already imposed by another level of government or another Act of legislation, such as the Agricultural Land Commission.

2) The policy is broad enough to be relevant to other communities.

3) The policy addresses an issue within the jurisdiction of the local government, or the policy addresses an issue beyond the scope of the local governments but provides a mechanism or action by which to achieve it.

4) The policy provides guidance on local government decision making. In contrast, policies proposing a single finite action (e.g. Create a soil guideline for urban agriculture projects) were  not included. 



Language Rating

High level policies that met the criteria for inclusion (above), were rated for the strength of their wording (the "language rating"). Policies that met the following criteria are noted with a * in the database under Language Rating

1)     The policy proposes defined actions and/or clear direction for further regulation.

2)     The policy uses action-oriented language that demonstrates a commitment such as ‘support, develop, will, encourage’, rather than weaker language such as ‘consider’ or ‘may’.

To view the language rating for a policy (only available for high-level policies), click View Details on the returned search result. At present, this rating is only available for policies in the BC database.

Provincial and regional policy

The database focuses on local government policy. However, select provincial policy documents were included if these were frequently referenced by local governments; e.g. ALR policies, Provincial Guide to Edge Planning etc.

Select regional -focused policy documents were included in order to provide examples of how higher levels of government are addressing food systems in their strategies/plans. Regional policy documents are included as examples and are not a comprehensive representation of regional food planning in B.C.

Supplementary information

Some policies were identified by the research team as particularly unique, progressive, or relevant.

To gather supplementary information about these policies, interviews were conducted with planners from the local governments where they were adopted. Through these interviews, we collected information about how the policies were developed, adopted and implemented, about what outcomes have been achieved, and, where possible, any recommendations for policy improvement.

When available, supplementary information about a policy can be viewed by clicking "View Details” for the returned policies in a search. To search the database only for policies with interview content, select YES under the  Supplementary Information Available search field. Supplementary information is only available for select policies in the B.C. Database.


What is not included in the database?

1) The database focuses on adopted local government policy. While many other organizations produce meaningful food system assessments, toolkits, gap analyses etc., these are beyond the scope of this database.

2) In order to provide policy references applicable to the wide range of geographic, demographic, political, and cultural contexts among local governments across B.C. and AB, the policies included in the database have not been curated with respect to overall quality or outcomes. While quality assessments for high-level planning documents remain an area of interest for future research, such assessments were not part of the selection process for the database. Additionally, given that food systems is an emerging theme in the planning field, many policies have only recently been adopted. We look forward to assessing policy outcomes as another potential area of future research.

As such, the database serves as a reference to better understand the diverse ways in which local governments in B.C. and AB are incorporating food systems into local government planning.

A living document

This database will be updated as new policies are adopted and others are revised. While the database provides a wide breadth of food policy content from diverse communities across B.C. and AB, it is not an exhaustive compilation of all food policy. If you have suggestions or contributions for the policy database, please contact us. For more information on what policy is included in the database, see How this Database was Developped in the navigation menu.

Searching by topic/subtopic

Using topic and subtopic searches

Both topic and subtopic search fields can be used to find policy that addresses a particular theme. While the 'topic' refers to the general theme addresses by a given policy, the 'subtopic' refers to the more specific subject matter of a given policy. Users may search according to topic, subtopic or both. 

For example, a policy that promotes the use of urban gardens to provide hands on education opportunities for community members would be categorized as follows:

Topic: Education

Subtopic: urban gardens/orchard

List of topics and commonly associated subtopics for reference



1)  The topics and subtopics used to categorize food system policies collected in the database. Subtopics are grouped under the topics with which they are most commonly associated. A single subtopic can fall under multiple topics depending on the nature of the policy. Please note that the table does not show an exhaustive list of topic-subtopic combinations. See the Glossary for topic and subtopic definitions.

2) the range of food system policies addressed by local governments in B.C. as they were collected for this database. It serves as a summary to demonstrate the current breadth of local government food system planning and can be used to assess, at a glance, the areas of focus that are currently being addressed by municipal policy as well as identify potential areas of future policy development. The compilation of food system policy objectives and their associated areas of focus were assembled by thematically grouping the topics/subtopics used as search terms in the database.