Nelson city council recently received a report on food security that urges them to consider lifting bylaws that ban backyard chickens and bees. The report includes a number of recommendations, including planting fruit and nut trees in public parks.
“Nelson still faces many food security challenges,” reads the report, prepared by Nelson Food Cupboard coordinator Marya Skrypiczajko.
“Nelson’s geographical position on the side of a mountain, surrounded by more mountains and water, means the city can produce only a small fraction of the food needed to sustain its citizens.”
This will be of increasing concern in coming years.
“This dependence on food being transported into the city is a fragile situation: roads can be closed, transportation costs can rise quickly, and producing regions can suffer from droughts and other weather disturbances which increase the cost of Nelson’s food supply.”
Currently only about five percent of the food consumed in Nelson is produced locally, according to the report.
Council also heard that vulnerable populations, particularly seniors, are on the rise. This will mean a continued strain on existing food banks and free meal programs.
“With little coordinated planning amongst stakeholders, it’s clear that Nelson still has a lot of work to do.”
That work will include preparing for the ongoing effects of climate change on the local economy and food system.
The report recommends that Nelson develop policies that support production within the city, and construct a number of greenhouses similar to the ones currently in Lakeside Park.
“The city-owned greenhouses at Lakeside Park are another important asset and a wonderful example of the potential for the municipality to use its asset6s to support community food security.”
Similar greenhouses could be built at “schools, on municipal land, at churches, on business land, and on large rooftops with HVAC systems, such as the mall and the hospital. This is also an economic development opportunity.”
The report also notes the lack of active community garden space.
“The old transfer station site can become a new park with edible gardens and a greenhouse. Gardens need to be large enough to grow significant amounts of food and there must be water infrastructure,” it reads.
The report notes that though there have been concerns about having edibles in public spaces due to the danger of wildlife, most notably bears, the dangers could be ameliorated by a proactive harvesting approach.
The top priority recommendations of the report are as follows:
- Advocate for a strong, local food system at all levels of government
- Form a municipal food council consisting of city councillors and stakeholders
- Create a community food centre accessible to the public
- Develop policies that support food production, storage and distribution
- Increase access to affordable, fresh and healthy food for vulnerable populations
- Improve coordination for strategic investments in food security
- Create an economic development fund for local agriculture
In addition to the city being interested in better understanding the local food system, the report noted “the results of this project are intended to aid businesses and social service organizations in planning new programs or making changes to existing work.”
The Food Security Asset Mapping and Gap Analysis project was a partnership of the city of Nelson and the Nelson Food Cupboard Society. It was completed in 2014. The full report is below.