Chair of the Calgary Food Policy Council (CFPC) , Paul Hughes spoke to CSL about advocacy, the Calgary food system and why the CFPC got started.
CSL: What is a Food Policy Council?
Hughes: Food Policy Councils (FPCs) are comprised of individuals from all aspects of a local food system. They are often officially sanctioned through a government action such as a City Council motion or they can ALSO be a grassroots effort. A Food Policy Council is an innovative collaboration between citizens and government officials. The goal is to provide a forum for advocacy and policy development that works towards the creation of a food system that is ecologically sustainable, economically viable and socially just. The primary goal of many Food Policy Councils is to examine the operation of a local food system and provide ideas and policy recommendations for how it can be improved.
CSL: What is the Calgary Food Policy Council? When did you begin operation?
Hughes: The Calgary Food Policy Council is a transparent, inclusive, responsive and open citizen driven oganization. The CFPC creates progressive food policy for the benefit of all Calgarians. The CFPC advises on food system matters. The CFPC mandate is to work with community groups to help solve the hunger problem, expand urban agriculture, create a sustainable Local Food System, support/encourage retailers/restaurants who are embracing sustainable practices, work with food companies/retailers/restaurants to foster more nutritious products and services, and work with local farmers to develop environmentally and socially sustainable growing systems.The CFPC was first established in Oct 2008. We just celebrated our first year of operations.
CSL: Why is there a need for this organization in Calgary?
Hughes: We have a massively complex food system in Calgary that feeds 1 million people 1.065 billion meals a year. The CFPC encourages the creation of a local food strategy that optimizes efficiencies within our local food system.
CSL:What are some of the challenges of the current food system?
Hughes: The 3 challenges the CFPC has been focusing on are:
1. Creating awareness about the need for a Made in Calgary food system strategy.
2. Creating efficiencies within this system in order to reduce wasted food and energy.
3. Creating capacity within the system in order that it may be resilient and sustainable. Local capacity encourages local responses to the dilemma of increased food security, which includes economic drivers and opportunity. Infrastructure development is not just roads and bridges, often referred to as Gray Infrastructure. The CFPC believes it can include ‘Green Infrastructure’ development, like urban agriculture and community gardens. What is more ‘shovel ready’ than an urban farm or garden?
CSL: Many of the issues that you cite, require the involvement of the entire community especially policy makers. What can each individual do to make a difference?
Hughes:Calgarians can sign the Calgary Food Charter. While we vote in municipal elections once every 4 years, we can vote daily with our pocketbooks by supporting locally grown and sustainable agriculture. Exercising
this franchise is one of the most powerful ways Calgarians can act to grow a local, resilient, sustainable food system. Become involved with the CFPC.Planting and growing and your own food is another option. Becoming involved in Community Gardens and Urban Ag projects is another. Contacting your alderman/local politician is also a way to become more involved. There is a direct connection between the food we eat and the health of our citizens. Dollars saved by taxpayers not using our health system can be reinvested in growing healthy foods.
For more about the Calgary Food Policy Council, see the Winter 2009/2010 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.