Note: This article was originally published in The Overcast.
One of the most exciting developments in our province the past few years has been the surge of an incredible “food culture.”
You can see it all over the place: new and exciting boutique restaurants are popping up; our farmer’s market is bursting at the seams; and local chefs and foragers are gaining international attention. It’s pretty frickin’ awesome.
Most of this has come from the ingenuity, passion, and drive of individuals who are just doing what they love. And I’d like to think there’s something about our culture that makes great food a natural part of who we are.
But while the passionate people and our creative culture are important parts of a thriving food industry, there are a lot of pieces that have to connect to keep this good thing going.
That’s where the St. John’s Food Policy Council comes in. This relatively new group (that I’m proud to be a part of as City Council representative) brings together all parts and players of our “food system.” These players represent all of the activities of the people and companies who grow, process, distribute, acquire, consume, and dispose of food.
That’s a lot of stuff to wrap our heads around, so we’ve spent the last year engaging experts and the public to determine a clear vision and set priorities for the Council.
Personally, the first question I had was “What the heck’s a food system?” I’ve learned that there are five main elements of a properly functioning food system:
- Food Access: Ensures fair access and availability of healthy, local, and affordable food.
- Food Production: Involves the growing, raising, catching, and gathering of food, as well as processing of food into market-ready and value added products.
- Food Infrastructure: Involves the movement of food across the supply chain to address transportation, distribution, processing, and waste.
- Buying and Selling: Follows the purchase of food from retail and wholesale sources, such as markets, restaurants, grocery stores, and institutions.
- Eating and Celebration: Values the impact on community, social, and cultural health by coming together to prepare and enjoy food.
As you can see, it’s not just “where you get food” like a grocery store or a restaurant. The food system includes our environment, our farms and factories, our transportation networks, and all of the people who work at every stage of getting food from farm to table to landfill (or sewage treatment plant…), and so much more.
Today the St. John’s Food Policy Council has a vision of “a local food system where people and place flourish.” To achieve that vision, we’ve identified several issues on which to focus our efforts.
For example, how can we support the local production of food? We can recommend policies that enable community gardens. We can find ways to streamline permit and inspection processes for restaurants. And we can encourage zoning for agricultural land use.
There are so many issues for us to explore: Economic access to food (poverty and high cost of food); food infrastructure (distribution systems and food storage); and food entrepreneurship, just to name a few. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’ll be fun (and tasty!).
If you’d like to stay in the loop on the Food Policy Council’s work, we have a mailing list. Shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll sign you up!