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Wheat City food survey wraps

Public education and access to food is top of mind as Brandon moves towards establishing food council

The City of Brandon could be one step closer to establishing a food policy council.

Food Matters Manitoba wrapped up a public survey last week, asking residents for their thoughts on how a council could be organized. The results will be passed on to the city’s Poverty Committee in the coming weeks.

“The idea with the survey was to now open the discussion up to the public based on some of the things we heard from our stakeholder groups and put that information forward to the public so everyday eaters in Brandon can respond,” said Rob Moquin, policy manager at Food Matters. “What exactly that food council will tackle is still under debate and discussion, but there is clear indication that things like public education, working on access to food issues, are sort of top of mind.”

He said the goal of survey wasn’t to get into the nitty-gritty of what the council will tackle, but get a broad sense of how people would like to see it structured and organized.

“It’s more of asking: Is it a good idea to have a food council? Who should be on that food council? What are the general areas of concern that we should be looking at?” Moquin said.

However, he added that the process really began in 2014 when Brandon established its food charter and noted it wouldn’t be possible without the work of established organizations and the city.

“That sort of outlines our vision and policy, or position, in respect to food and food security in Brandon,” said Lonnie Patterson, Brandon city councillor. The establishment of a food council was one of the goals spawned by work on the food charter process, added Patterson, who also heads the city’s Poverty Committee.

She said the committee will review the results of the survey, as well as two stakeholder events held by Food Matters Manitoba, before passing the information on to city council.

“I think we’re going to get a wealth of knowledge from the report and hopefully it gives us a really good idea of how this could be pursued going forward,” she said. “When you’re approaching things from a real… community development aspect, you really have to be prepared for things to take a bit of time, because when community engages you get a lot of perspectives and information and it really is an ongoing dialogue to get to something that the majority of people interested in agree is a good way to move forward.”

Moquin agrees, noting this project has pulled many organizations together, and hopes a food council will bring a greater element of co-ordination to the tackling of food issues.

“I think it is really important that people realize there are so many great people in Brandon doing good work already and the idea behind a food council is not to sort of wrench that away from people who are doing awesome work around food,” he said. “This is really an opportunity to tap into that and have a little more concerted effort around food issues in Brandon.”

More than 60 Canadian communities, local governments or municipalities already have food policy councils in place.

About the author

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Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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