Everyone deserves good food close to home
First, I want to congratulate the Ottawa Food Policy Council, Just Food, the Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network, and the Coalition of Community Health Centres for challenging municipal candidates on this extremely important issue: ensuring good food for all. Voters deserve to know how candidates intend to address it if they are elected. I'm please to provide my detailed answers below.
But the main answser is YES!
Yes! I will champion Good Food for All!
- I will champion sustained funding for initiatives that ensure Good Food exists for all.
- I will champion economic development focused on food and farming.
- I will champion the use of a Good Food lens for planning and policies.
To me, there are two overall related issues:
- The City strategy to support fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all.
- The policies and actions the City must take to implement these.
Both must be effectively addressed. While there has been a lot of talk about food security by elected officials, there has been not enough effective action in our ward.
In Kitchissippi, we are fortunate that food issues are top-of-mind thanks to the work of dedicated people like Karen Secord at the Parkdale Food Centre and Bill Shields and his colleagues who have just successfully launched the West End Well. Front-line providers like these are inter-linked with multiple social agencies and NGOs such as the Somerset West Community Health Centre and its new Rosemount Ave. location, creating a ready-made network for discussion and action. I am proud of the constructive relationships I’ve built with these and others over the course of my 17+ years of work with the Hintonburg Community Association, and networking with other groups throughout the ward and city. The degree to which I and my Hintonburg colleagues continue to be committed to addressing food security is clear upon reading the Hintonburg/Mechanicsville Neighbourhood plan.
1. Sustaining good food initiatives
My first commitment is to re-establish active engagement with the experts in this sphere and with the community at large to promote good food programs. Indeed, this applies not just to food issues, but all issues. It is my pledge to have an ongoing, meaningful dialogue between the Councillor’s office and residents, NGOs, and businesses. A Councillor simply cannot be effective working in isolation without real consultation. My pledge is to be proactive, to use the Councillor’s budget to help study issues and facilitate consultation and to broaden important discussions.
I will work proactively to build on the rich potential for action and consensus-building across the ward and city on food issues, and to bring a strong voice to City Hall working with food advocates, not in isolation from them. I will actively help to promote good food initiatives in partnership with the various groups behind this survey. I promise to work collaboratively and behind-the-scenes with good food advocates and experts to make good food availability a priority of the City.
2. Good food and economic development
My second commitment is to help protect the sources of local food in Ottawa and ensure that local food in available and sustainable. I have long supported the Parkdale Market in my ward, which both supports local growers has supplied fresh food in the urban area since 1924. All suppliers of local fresh foods must be supported and sustained. One concrete step the city can take is maintaining the urban boundary to protect farmland from development and urban sprawl. Another is to support Business Improvement Areas in ways that help promote an environment for small businesses who provide good food to thrive. A third is to ensure that zoning does not promote the displacement of such businesses by chain stores and condos. Finally, the City must show visible leadership in supporting good food and local farming, including through Health Department programs and City food procurement policies. I promise to fully and effectively support these types of initiatives.
3. The “good food lens”
My third commitment is to very actively promote good development that considers food availability as a factor in whether a development proposal is appropriate and in City plans. While the City cannot force food providers to open in specific locations, we cannot just hide behind this as an excuse for inaction. We actually do have tools we can use in zoning and secondary plans. We also should not lose sight of the fact that the City owns land where it can control the uses that are allowed. Promoting food sources (e.g., businesses, community gardens) on city-owned land is certainly feasible, and must be pursued.
I am proud to have worked with my colleagues at the Hintonburg Community Association to ensure that the Hintonburg/Mechanicsville Neighbourhood Plan included a strong component of food security, and I would like to ensure that approach is made broader to encompass the entire Kitchissippi ward and City.
Furthermore, I have already committed to working with the community and businesses to explore the feasibility of a comprehensive planning approach called the “Development Permit System,” which is allowed by the Province but was never implemented by Ottawa as a planning tool. It allows zoning that requires certain uses. If implemented, that could be an ideal way to ensure that food security issues are addressed.
There are limits to what can be imposed on developers with respect to the uses in new developments. Recognizing those, however, I believe it will be critical in development applications, zoning and by-law amendments to ensure that neighbourhood access to food is never taken off the table. My commitment is to proactive outreach to workers and advocates of food security when considering applications or new by-laws to ensure they have a chance to comment. I was on the advisory committee of the Centretown Community Health Centre’s initiative to develop tools that speak to the health outcomes of planning decisions, and will work to ensure those tools are more broadly disseminated and that their use is facilitated.
In social services and community planning, my commitment is to ensure a food sustainability lens. Further, I believe this lens needs to be extended to such important issues as transit planning and prioritizing cycling and pedestrian infrastructure (including accessibility for those with disabilities) to ensure that access to healthy food isn’t only available to those with cars.
I am also committed, if elected, to ensuring that my independent communications with residents, including social media, blog, and press communications, contribute to a collective effort to address food insecurity at higher levels of government.