Call this planning what to have for dinner – for a very long time to come.
The City of Winnipeg is now creating a 25-year blueprint for the city’s future and last week held round table discussions for residents to share their thoughts on food access and availability, food waste handling, urban agriculture and community gardening in Manitoba’s capital.
The round table meeting is part of a broader initiative – Speak Up Winnipeg – to get citizen input for the city’s development plan, to be called Our Winnipeg, explains Ian Hall, a city policy and program planner.
“It’s different than the way the city has gone about planning in the past,” said Hall, explaining that it’s an approach that will make planning not only more collaborative and consultative, but put social issues such as food and the environment on the agenda.
“Food intersects with land use and other issues,” said Hall.
Until recently, “necessities of life” such as food, clean air and potable water were all but absent from discussions on land use and urban planning.
Now urban planners are turning their attention to these issues, as well as the spectre of diminishing fossil fuel resources and climate change.
At the same time, society can’t ignore other problems in society related directly to food, such as rising rates of obesity of the fact that about 10 per cent of Canadians at any one time are living in food insecure circumstances, says Wayne Roberts, project coordinator for the Toronto Food Policy Council and author of The No Nonsense Guide to World Food who was invited to speak to the meeting.
“Food is no longer just about agriculture or farmers,” he said.
That means, among other things, finding ways to stop overrelying on transported food and rebuilding more self-sufficiency into food systems, Roberts said. “We have a system that may have worked well for the last 40 or 50 years but it’s unsustainable. Even if you thought we’re doing a pretty good job, which we are in many respects, we’ve got to change our ways. The system runs on cheap oil. And it’s not going to be available in 10 or 20 years.”
The “food desert,” is a concept now often used in food security discussions as they relate to the urban design of cities. Food deserts are places where no food is grown for lack of space to produce it, and grocery stores are few and far between.
Both the American Planning Association and the Canadian Institute of Planners are now talking about how to better plan for food and agriculture, Roberts notes.
The Amer ican Planning Association’s planners have developed a policy guide that promotes food systems for comprehensive food planning at community and regional levels.
The Canadian Institute of Planners annual convention, held in Ontario last week, was also devoted to discussions on how to make agriculture a main course on planners’ plates.
The Manitoba Food Charter acted as a co-host for the Winnipeg round table.