When Winnipeggers head to the polls this fall they will be voting for their mayor and city councillors for the next four years. And while there will be a lot of attention over the coming two months on potholes, property taxes, and frozen pipes, it is also time to start talking about something we often take for granted, something that we see every day: food.
That’s right, food. In a city where access to grocery stores is declining, where diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes are on the rise, and where one in ten people is food insecure we need to think about food. Meanwhile over one in eight Winnipeggers have food-related jobs, our economy benefits from a strong agricultural sector, and food services like restaurants and grocery stores help create vibrant, liveable communities.
So before you go to the polls in October, ask your candidates how they will deal with the food issues that matter to you. What kind of a difference can the city really make?
- Our municipal government can get our city growing…growing food that is. Cities can provide land, support, and access to water for urban food production in community gardens or urban agriculture.
- Our municipal government can support economic development that brings grocery stores to neighbourhoods, creates opportunities for new food ventures, and creates jobs through food.
- Our municipal government can use the food it buys to create positive change in our communities by providing healthy foods in its community programming or purchasing from local sources to keep our tax dollars in our economy.
- Our municipal government can take the food waste we produce and turn it into a resource for our community through municipal composting programs.
- Our municipal government can establish a food policy council to keep addressing these issues (and more) on an ongoing basis and create a strong link between the City and the community.
Across Canada, cities are making a positive difference for food. In recent years, cities such as Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Halifax, Victoria, and Brandon have all taken innovative steps to support food in their cities. It’s a long list – and those are just examples!
Over the coming month, check back for blog posts sharing ideas, inspiration from other cities, and questions you can ask your candidates.
And mark your calendars for September 16th at 7pm – when we’ll be hosting Winnipeg’s first ever mayoral forum focused on food at the University of Winnipeg’s Eckardt-Gramatté Hall.
Between now and then, have a look at who your council candidates are and find out what they think. We’ll also be looking for volunteers to call candidates in September. If you’re interested, please let us know.