Healthy Food Systems – The Importance of Local Food
Did you know that how a community is designed can impact your ability to access safe, dependable and affordable nutritious food?
Well-designed communities consider where and how food can be accessed and also value food that is locally produced and processed. These communities value the importance of preserving and protecting the land, water and other resources needed to grow food. Land use planning can have a huge impact on whether or not residents have ready access to sources of safe, healthy and affordable foods such as grocery stores, farmers’ markets and community gardens.
A sustainable local food system approach to food access looks at the processes involved to improve the health of people, places, and the environment as well as support economic success. For more information, including a graphic explaining the sustainable local food system, see here.
There are many ways residents and community partners can support creating local sustainable food systems in their community:
· Buy locally grown vegetables, fruit and other healthy foods, and ask grocery stores, restaurants and other places where food is served to provide more local food.
· Participate in community, roof top or other shared gardening opportunities that help make communities more self‐sufficient, build community spirit and a sense of social connection and beautify neighborhoods.
· Get involved in the Urban Pantry to take part in various programs, including community gardens, the Barrie Good Food Box, food skills workshops/community kitchens, and FruitShare.
· Speak with your neighbours about issues affecting food access in your community and discuss ways to address them.
· Contact your municipality to learn more about your municipality’s official plan and how it can be used to promote access to healthy food. The official plan guides how land should be used in your community, such as where housing, industry, shops, parks and schools will be located, what services are needed and how road and transportation systems are designed. Official plans are updated at least every five years. A copy of the plan is made available to the public and your local council must ensure a public meeting is held about the plan. When a municipality is updating their official plan, any person can provide written comments and/or speak at the public meeting about what is being proposed. Check out some Food Access Policy Statements you could ask your municipality to include in their official plan.
For more information about how you can be involved in creating a community that values a sustainable local food system, contact the Urban Pantry.
Written by Lindsay Lock and the public health nurses at the Simcoe Muskoka District