Citizens and municipal government focusing on food issues together.
Wherever government and the food system intersect, there is food policy. Food policies are the area of public policy concerning how food is produced, processed, distributed, purchased, and disposed of.
For example, regulations for opening a food-based business, policies and guidelines on whether junk food and soft drinks are allowed in vending machines, the nutrition requirements placed on daycares, and the regulations for the administration of food assistance programs—these are all food policies.
Sarah Crocker, Public Education Coordinator at Food First NL, was one of the people working behind the scenes to make the St. John’s Food Policy Council happen this year.
“The city is involved with food in so many ways,” she says, “from zoning developments and the licensing of businesses, to how agricultural land development is balanced with commercial and residential development.”
The City of St. John’s, like most municipalities across Canada, does not have a Department of Food nor does it necessarily view these sorts of decisions as food policy, or as influencing the food system.
To fill this gap, many cities in Canada have formed food policy councils. These councils can be purely grassroots efforts or can be officially sanctioned by the municipality. In St. John’s, the idea to form a food policy council came from the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee, after a presentation from Food First NL’s Executive Director, Kristie Jameson.
In December 2013, the city pledged their support for Food First NL to develop a council to bring together citizens, community organizations, industry, and government to discuss issues of local relevance and provide ideas and recommendations for new and improved policies, and programs to improve the regional food system. At the inaugural meeting in June of 2014, 29 people representing food system stakeholders gathered to discuss the purpose, priorities, and membership.
Councillor Dave Lane was named the City of St. John’s Council representative.
“If we have policy that comes out of this council that we can take back to city hall, that’s going to help us make better decisions, right across the board,” says Lane.
The founding membership of the St. John’s Food Policy Council was formed in April 2015, with the council now focusing in on identifying strategic issues for the council for the coming year. Stay updated on activities of the council by visiting www.sjfpc.ca.