Organizations from across Leeds Grenville and Lanark counties are urging candidates for the fall municipal election to include food security in their election platforms.
With the increase in food costs, supply chain issues and threats of climate change, food is top of mind for many and should be front and centre in the municipal election. Local health, environmental and food organizations are issuing this call because food security doesn’t typically feature prominently in municipal elections.
“Many people think food and agriculture are provincial and federal concerns,” said Michèle Andrews from Sustainable Merrickville-Wolford and DoorNumberOne.org. “There are, however, many things municipalities can do to support local food security. Those running for election in October should get familiar with the tools they can use and put their ideas for improving local food security into their platforms.”
After seeing the low voter turnout in the recent provincial election, The Table Community Food Centre’s executive director Ramsey Hart said he wants to do what he can to increase interest and participation in the upcoming municipal election.
“Municipalities are our most immediate and accessible level of government and they can do a lot to support a more just and sustainable food system. We need candidates that recognize this and we need more citizens to get involved to push for change,” Hart said.
Addressing food security has many benefits for our local communities, province and nation. ConnectWell Community Health’s registered dietitian, Megan Weber, said that “a lack of nutritious food affects health across the lifespan and addressing food security will reduce cost and demand on the health-care system.”
The groups recommend FoodCoreLGL’s Municipal Toolkit for implementing the Leeds-Grenville and Lanark Food Charter as an essential resource on the subject.
Julie Servant, executive director of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network, added that “this region already has a foundation to get started and municipalities could rely on FoodCoreLGL’s educational resources to help further the movement towards food sustainability.”
Areas of municipal influence over food security include: zoning to protect farmland; financial and in-kind support for local food projects like community gardens; ensuring bylaws to allow diverse uses of front or backyards for food production; support for marketing of local producers; creating zoning and bylaws for food processing, including abattoirs, supporting and working with anti-poverty coalitions, and advancing affordable housing to reduce housing costs; and ensure low-income community members can direct more of their limited financial resources to food.
The public can play an important role in asking candidates about the actions they would advance to improve local food security and direct them to the Food Charter and Municipal Toolkit to further educate them.