Municipal Policy Enabling Regional Food Systems in British Columbia, Canada
Assessing Focal Areas and Gaps
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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