In the direction of a Winnipeg Meals Coverage Council

Background

On May 13, 2014, the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development concurred in the recommendation of the Riel Community Committee (May 5, 2014), that in recognition of 2014 being “The International Year of Family Farming”, the Winnipeg Public Service be directed to research and provide recommendations on how best to ensure that the interests of Winnipeg’s agricultural community are considered as the city continues to grow.

The result of this research was a report, which found that the interests of the agricultural community extend beyond preserving farmland to produce food. These interests involve the whole food system; from production to processing, buying/selling, eating and waste disposal. These issues affect everyone, and not just those living on farms.
A recommendation in this report (on June 2, 2015) was that the Winnipeg Public Service:

“…engage key stakeholders to investigate and provide recommendations related to the formation, role and governance structure of a Winnipeg Food Policy Council, with a mandate of providing continued advice on agricultural and food related policy, including:

  1. Providing research and advisory support towards implementing the direction strategies related to food and agriculture outlined in OurWinnipeg and Complete Communities;
  2. Investigating barriers towards local agricultural production and exploring opportunities towards improving food production and food security;
  3. Preparing a report with recommendations to expand the list of permissible non-invasive agricultural-related uses throughout the City of Winnipeg; and
  4. Assisting in the creation of an Agricultural and Food Security Strategy to address local food production and security issues. This strategy would follow the policy directions for ‘Rural and Agricultural’ lands identified in Complete Communities and respond to food needsasidentifiedin the OurWinnipeg section on ‘Vitality’.”

In response to this recommendation, the Urban Planning Division researched successful food policy council formation, role and governance structure. Together with Food Matters Manitoba (a local food organization promoting food security and sustainability), the City hosted conversations with food-related stakeholders in May and June of 2016. A summary of stakeholder feedback and feedback from an online questionnaire can be found in the “documents” tab of this website.

On February 22, City Council concurred in the recommendations of the Executive Policy Committee, and authorized the creation and operation of the proposed Winnipeg Food Council by approving the recommended Terms of Reference document (Attachment A of the Administrative Report). City Council also referred a budget increase of $69,000 for consideration in the 2018 budget review process, and directed the Urban Planning Division to report back within 120 days with membership recommendations.
The Administrative report, along with the Terms of Reference, can be viewed here.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a food policy council?

A food policy council is a group that works with the political process to shape the local food system by looking at it from many different perspectives. Members are usually involved in different parts of the food system (producers, processors, distributors, eaters, etc.), and work together to create a sustainable, accessible, and dynamic food system. Food policy councils discuss food issues, coordinate between food system sectors, evaluate and influence policy, and support programs and services that address local needs. Different interests are brought together as the group discusses system issues, researches, and analyzes or proposes policy changes and / or programming related to the food system.

Date added: June 7, 2016

What does a food policy council do?

In general, food policy councils improve the local food system by advising policy makers, which includes research, oversight, advising and advocating for specific policies. They also gather information about the local food environment, build relationships with and between stakeholders, create an opportunity to study and discuss the food system as a whole, and develop strategies to better address community food security.

What food policy councils do can depend on the scale, structure, and mandate of each food policy council, along with local issues and needs. However, common activities include public awareness campaigns, education programs, research, community food assessments, advising on policy, improving coordination between existing food policies or programs, publicizing community food resources, and hosting public forums on food system topics.

Date added: June 7, 2016

Why should Winnipeg have a food policy council?

Community groups have been requesting that the City establish a food policy council since 2008. Community input at the beginning of this project will help make sure Winnipeg’s potential food policy council is structured and governed in a way acceptable to both the community and the government. With both community and political support, Winnipeg’s food policy council will be able to make more positive policy changes to help the production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food in Winnipeg.

OurWinnipeg recognizes that local food production and connections to our food are part of a vital and healthy neighbourhood (OurWinnipeg, Section 03-2). The Plan directs the City to respond to food needs as identified by communities by working through community partnerships. One of the ways to do this is to create a Food Policy Council.

Other OurWinnipeg policy directions directly or indirectly connected with food policy involve the need for intergovernmental cooperation, collaboration with economic and community economic development agencies, and a commitment to sustainable long-term planning (OurWinnipeg pp 50-51).  Food issues also intersect with policy directions about sustainability (OurWinnipeg p 65), inclusion and opportunity (OurWinnipeg pp 75-77).  The City has also been active in supporting community gardening by creating a Community Garden Policy.

Date added: June 7, 2016

Do other cities have food policy councils?

There are currently over 200 food policy councils throughout Canada and the United States. Of that, at least 19 are embedded in government at the municipal level. In Canada, food policy councils from three cities – Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver –have been established by municipal government.

Date added: June 7, 2016

So what’s the plan?

Food Council members will likely be confirmed by the end of summer 2017. After this, we expect that the Food Council will take some time to get to know each other and plan their next steps.

Date added: June 7, 2016

I have a long list of ideas about what a Winnipeg food policy council should do. Who do I give it to?

Although the Food Council will eventually get feedback on Winnipeggers’ priorities, new ideas about specific activities will have to wait for a bit. For the next while, we will be focusing on committee membership and figuring out how to get everything started. Once membership is confirmed, the Food Council will likely begin making plans for public consultation and other potential initiatives.

Date added: June 7, 2016

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