The Calgary Food Committee (CFC) released its first report on Calgary’s food system to city council yesterday. The committee was tasked in March 2011 with researching every link in the chain — from source to plate — and to fill in the holes.
It turns out there are very few holes in the system, and even fewer that the City has the power to plug.
After consulting with 260 organizations and nearly 2,000 individuals involved in Calgary’s food system, including chefs, restaurant owners, farmers, market vendors, food banks, community garden advocates and consumers, the committee has come to a few conclusions.
Namely, Calgary, unlike perhaps Mogadishu, Somalia, or Pyongyang, North Korea, is situated in a landscape dominated by agriculture; is a major food distribution hub; cites food processing as its top manufacturing product; has 111 community gardens but is desperate for more; sees a third of its residents growing their own fruits and vegetables in home gardens; and benefits from a rigorous food safety system administered by the provincial and federal governments.
Despite the paucity of problems for the CFC to solve, the group did discover some issues. First, only half of Calgarians live within easy walking distance (stated as one kilometre) of a grocery store. Next, “income-related household food insecurity exists in Calgary due to an underlying issue of poverty.” The committee’s report points out it is not tasked with alleviating poverty, however the Calgary Poverty Reduction Strategy is.
Finally, Calgarians produce over 65,000 tonnes of food waste annually. Some 36,000 tonnes of that is processed in existing city composting facilities, and if green carts are approved by council, the city will have the capacity to recycle another 46,000 tonnes. Crisis averted.
The CFC is part of the imagineCALGARY 100-year urban sustainability plan. Council will now decide how to act on the CFC’s recommendations to review relevant bylaws for update, collaborate with academia to better understand food, and aid stakeholders in creating local food distribution networks.