Municipal Policy Enabling Regional Food Systems in British Columbia, Canada

Assessing Focal Areas and Gaps




Official Community Plans, Food System Policy, Food Planning, Regional Food Systems, Policy Categorization, Local Government, Policy Gaps, British Columbia, Canada


Local-regional food systems are increasingly the focus of community activism and local government planning in British Columbia (BC), Canada. At present, there is no provincial or federal govern­ment food system strategy to inform or guide local government policy efforts. To ascertain focal points of local government food system planning, we assessed current municipal Official Community Plans (OCPs) in BC and suggest areas for future policy development to enable regional food sys­tems in the province. In BC, an OCP is the most comprehensive, high-level municipal planning document used to guide future management and land use decisions. We reviewed OCPs from 61 municipalities (37% of BC’s municipalities) and categorized the food systems policy within accord­ing to a set of 13 topics and 53 subtopics. We report policy topic or subtopic frequency, ex­pressed as a percentage of municipalities (n=49). We also developed and applied a framework to identify policy gaps for enabling regional food systems. Policy addressing food access for resi­dents as well as policy supporting urban agriculture were identi­fied as the most prevalent food system policy foci in BC. Recognition of and support for Indigenous foodways, however, were scarcely addressed by existing food access policies. We identified gaps in regional food system policy regarding postproduc­tion capacity for regional markets, waste manage­ment, and environmental stewardship. We offer that fostering regional sys­tems requires coordinated policy efforts between jurisdictions and suggest that such coordination is particularly important and needed between urban and rural municipalities, which represent primary food-consuming and food-producing areas, respectively. This coordina­tion will require municipalities to expand food system policy efforts beyond their current urban agriculture focus, which has been criticized as having a limited capacity to address a number of pressing food system con­cerns. The framework we developed and applied can serve as a tool in other jurisdictions to assess current local government regional food system policy foci and identify areas for future policy development to enable regional food systems.


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Author Biographies

Naomi Robert, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Institute for Sustainable Food Systems

Kent Mullinix, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Director, Institute for Sustainable Food Systems



How to Cite

Robert, N., & Mullinix, K. (2018). Municipal Policy Enabling Regional Food Systems in British Columbia, Canada: Assessing Focal Areas and Gaps. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(B), 115–132.

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