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Parksville not biting on food security pitch

A presentation to Parksville city council on community food security and strategies from an Island Health representative received a cool reception.

Analisa Blake, Island Health project lead for food security and healthy lifestyles, gave a 20 minute Power Point presentation on helpful ways local governments can support healthy food and food security.

Coun. Carrie Powell-Davidson, a big advocate of local food security who invited Blake after meeting her at a Union of B.C. Municipalities food event, said she intends to bring a food strategy motion to council. Blake spoke of the breadth and complexity of food issues and their impact on health, the environment, economy, social and cultural issues and security.

She also had some complicated charts about how food issues fall under numerous jurisdictions from the city and regional district to the provincial level through the Agricultural Land Commission, health authorities and government.

She highlighted the ways the city already addresses food issues through the official community plan (OCP), an urban garden zone and a new backyard hens bylaw.

"I'm trying to wrap my head around what we'd actually end up with," said Coun. Peter Morrison. "To have a strategy that covers everything from production to making sure people can open jars of food, I can't wrap my head around the economics, the money required to create a strategy like this," he said. "I can't see the benefit that outweighs the cost of this."

After a fair bit of discussion about the details of creating a city food strategy, including grants available, chief administrative officer Fred Manson chimed in with thoughts that had clearly been building throughout the discussion.

“In looking in at the parts of the food system that are itemized there, none of those are really things that as a municipality we have control over.”

Despite this, he said, “The city’s already undertaken quite a few initiatives to promote food production and food security,” including support for the community garden and a recent decision to not support an application to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

He said that while there isn’t a formalized plan council often makes decisions based on food security and the overall strategy being discussed would be like a mini-OCP “which could be quite costly.”

“Health is a provincial responsibility, this in essence, if we take this on this would be us accepting another provincial download,” Manson summed up, adding that it might be a good idea but, “right now we don’t have the resources.”

For more on the Island Health food strategy visit www.planH.ca.

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