A sustainable and resilient food system is only possible with the infrastructure – the land, people, and built environment – to make it happen. The role of The City of Calgary in the food system is fundamental as an enabler and supporter, and hence action implementation is most practical in areas that fall under its direct influence. Implementation is achieved through policy, pilot projects and program development.
Despite an increase in local food assets, Calgary will continue to have a strong dependence on the global food system. The long transportation distance the city’s food travels can make it harder for Calgarians to generally understand where their food comes from, where there are food system vulnerabilities, and how to support a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient food system.
Food insecurity is caused by insufficient financial resources to meet household food needs. Food security is the availability of food through a consistent food supply chain. The City of Calgary plays a role in both.
Here are the top six things the City of Calgary is doing to build a more sustainable and resilient food system:
1. The City of Calgary has a Food Action Plan
The CalgaryEATS! Food Action Plan was endorsed by City Council in 2012 with a vision of providing all Calgarians with access to local, healthy and a secure supply of food, while ensuring the food system is environmentally sustainable and supporting economic development. There are 17 City-led actions that fall under the following categories:
- Regulation, Legislation and Advocacy
- Land Use Planning
- Logistics and Transportation
- Economic Development
- Community Programs
- Education Programs
2. A Future Focused Food System
A food action plan is more than a report or set of recommendations. It is an ongoing adaptive process of identifying, building, and strengthening positive connections between multiple stakeholders and leveraging partnership, collaborations and resources. The CalgaryEATS! Food Action Plan continues to evolve to meet the city’s growing food needs. The following themes have emerged as priorities for 2023 – 2026:
- Broadening culturally diverse food assets;
- Examining opportunities to encourage healthy and lower cost food retail;
- Development of a Food Resilience Program;
- Providing more opportunities for urban food production on City-owned land; and
- Continued support for a strong local food economy.
3. Towards Greater Food System Resilience
Developing a Food Resilience Program will identify ways that The City of Calgary and its partners can support a food system where food is consistently available, accessible, appropriate, and healthy for Calgarians. The Food Resilience Program will evaluate vulnerabilities in Calgary where crisis events are more likely to affect the reliable functioning of the food system. We will then create strategies and actions to increase our level of preparedness and better respond to crisis events.
4. The Food System is Critical Infrastructure
Calgary depends on a global food supply chain to provide over 3 million meals per day to Calgarians. A disruption to the food supply chain impacts food availability and food accessibility. Critical infrastructure is a word used by governments to describe assets that are essential for the functioning of society and the economy. Municipal governments have a role in ensuring that critical infrastructure is protected. The City of Calgary considers the food system to be critical infrastructure and includes the food system in its emergency response and level of preparedness to short-term shocks and long-term stressors.
5. Shortening Local Food Supply Chains for Improved Resilience
The City of Calgary Farm Stand Program provides urban and regional small-holder farms the opportunity to sell their farm products in communities across the city. By utilizing City-owned land and facilities, The City of Calgary provides a rent-free location for farms to sell their products. This provides small-holder farmers with more pathways to market, helps farmers to keep their products affordable, brings more local food into the city, activating public spaces, strengthening local food access, and our local food economy.
6. Supporting a Strong Local Food Economy
Supporting a Strong Local Food Economy
Calgary’s local food system consists of a diverse array of businesses, not-for-profits, and other entities including urban and regional farms, food processors, farm stands and farmer’s markets, food hubs, distributors, retailers, restaurants and more. As Calgary’s population continues to grow, demand for food production, grows as well. The agriculture and agri-food sector is a major element of Calgary’s food system, contributing to the production of food that Calgarians eat while also providing key employment and economic growth opportunities through domestic sale and export and value-added processing. The City of Calgary works with internal partners and the food sector to ensure that we respond to their needs and support a strong local food economy.