Food and the City

It’s an exciting time for food in Halifax.  In recent years, Halifax has joined the long list of Canadian cities that are engaging with food security and community food project.

Across Canada, there are over 60 municipal food policy initiatives.   Inspired by these initiatives, the Halifax Food Policy Alliance (formerly the Halifax Food Strategy Group) was born.  Nearly two years ago a group began meeting with the goal of getting food on the municipal agenda.  A formal steering committee was formed in September 2014 with representatives from the city of Halifax, Capital District Public Health, Ecology Action Centre, United Way, Seaport Farmers Market and the community at large.  Our current work includes the creation of toolkits for communities to undertake a food assessment, research into and support for policy initiatives and program to support healthy food systems in Halifax, and the completion of a Halifax-wide food assessment.

Speaking of the food assessment, Food Counts: Halifax Food Assessment is nearly complete!  This report details information on over 70 indicators across 6 determinants of a healthy, just and sustainable food system.  Want to know how many community gardens there are in Halifax? How many breastfeeding-friendly businesses exist?  Where we rank in terms of food insecurity?  The Food Assessment working group of the Halifax Food Policy Alliance has been combing through data for well over a year and the report is due out this spring.  Stay tuned!

Supportive policy and solid background data helps ignite food projects at the ground level and vice versa.  Cities across Canada are coming up with interesting and exciting ways to deliver healthy and affordable food to urban populations. In many cases, these projects focus on communities that have particularly low access to fresh food, for reasons that often vary, but include things like physical and social barriers, or lack of availability and affordability. The examples are many and include things like the “Market Mobile” that was launched by Ottawa Public health, the good food markets run by Food Share Toronto, and Good Food Boxes in Montreal.

Fueled by this sort of inspiration and keen public interest, Mayor Mike Savage recently announced the city’s support in a successful grant application to develop the idea of a “mobile market” for Halifax. How exciting! The first stage will be to form a partnership between Public Health Services, Halifax Regional Municipality, private business, and diverse community stakeholders. Together they will explore the idea of using Halifax Transit buses to bring fresh food to communities across Halifax where a particular need has been established. This initiative is part of the follow up effort of the “Mayor’s Conversation on Healthy and Livable Cities”, where food was identified as a key priority for Halifax.

Another inspiring area of growth across the city can be seen in our numerous community gardens that are now becoming a mainstay in so many Halifax neighborhoods. Not only are these gardens growing in size and function, but some are beginning to explore the idea of urban orchards– another idea which has begun to take root in other Canadian cities. Last year, the first local urban orchard project was established in the Dartmouth Common, and work is underway to bring urban orchards to other community garden sites across Halifax. It appears that Halifax is growing, in more ways than one.20140709_122756

-Marla MacLeod & Aimee Carson

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