Municipal Policy Enabling Regional Food Systems in British Columbia

March 2019

By Naomi Robert and Mary Beckie

As the food system becomes an increasingly important component of the municipal planning agenda, planners have expressed a need to improve information transfer across jurisdictions in order to share precedents and expedite policy research. To address this, researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, Naomi Robert, Caitlin Dorward and Kent Mullinix, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University developed a searchable, online database of municipal food policy in BC; an unprecedented planning tool in Canada.

Released in 2017, the resource includes 2,000+ policy references (compiled from Official Community Plans, Bylaws, Food Strategies etc.) from more than 60 local governments in B.C. and serves as a comprehensive and centralized resource for planners, policy makers and community advocates to research precedents and advance food system planning in their regions. The resource continues to be used throughout the province to advance food policy research and development in B.C. The development of the database has also facilitated comprehensive studies of British Columbia’s food policy landscape to assess focal areas and gaps (Robert & Mullinix, 2018).

Through connections with the FLEdGE research partnership, ISFS partnered with Elizabeth Bacon and Mary Beckie at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension to create a complementary database for the province of Alberta. ISFS hosted a training workshop with visiting researchers who were able to then apply the methodology to their home province. After a period of collaborative research, the Alberta Food System Policy Database was released in 2018. In Feb 2019, the ISFS hosted a second training workshop with visiting researchers from the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfred Laurier University. The methodology is being applied to Ontario’s policy landscape to develop a complementary resource. In addition to providing province-specific food policies for municipal planners, the database is also of value for comparative policy research that can illuminate regional differences and the range of policy options used in municipalities of different sizes and locations.

BC Food System Policy Database: http://www.kpu.ca/isfs/foodpolicydatabase

Alberta Food System Policy Database: http://www.kpu.ca/isfs/foodpolicydatabase/ab