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Canmore joins Bow Valley Food Alliance's food charter

“Food insecurity is not going anywhere and the need is greater than ever and only increasing. It is similar and interconnected with affordability, climate change and affordable housing in the sense that municipalities are a player when addressing these complex issues, but we aren’t the only player.”
20210226 Banff Food Rescue 0503
A table full of vegetables and fruit collected from local grocery stores for the Banff Food Rescue on Friday (Feb. 26). The volunteer-driven organization's goal is to provide food security in the Bow Valley by keeping good food from becoming food waste. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers now prepare bags of food to hand out at evening distributions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Participants are encouraged to donate $5 for a bag of food. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – Canmore is the latest municipality to add its name as a signee of the Bow Valley Food Alliance’s food charter.

Town council approved joining the charter at its Tuesday (May 5) meeting, along with fellow valley municipalities the Town of Banff and Improvement District No. 9 which signed on last year.

“We need to address as much as we can," said Mayor Sean Krausert, adding the four pillars in addressing affordability are housing, transportation, child care and food. "We need to do as much as we can to address those things that are driving up costs in our valley and that are causing problems to be here,”

According to Statistics Canada, one in seven Canadians were experiencing food insecurity as of May 2020, which was a 10.5 per cent increase from 2018.

Lu Douce, a program coordinator with Family and Community Support Services, also highlighted with inflation at a 30-year high, the issues are likely to continue.

“Food insecurity is not going anywhere and the need is greater than ever and only increasing,” she said. “It is similar and interconnected with affordability, climate change and affordable housing in the sense that municipalities are a player when addressing these complex issues, but we aren’t the only player.”

Canmore council put off signing the charter when members of the food alliance presented in January. While acknowledging the importance of addressing food insecurity, council wanted more information on what would be required of them and how it could impact decision-making of council if they signed.

The concern noted that with previous councils agreeing to similar arrangements, they have come into conflict with policies and provincial legislation while also giving certain expectations of what can and cannot be completed.

A staff report to council report indicated the only requirement of the Town when signing the charter is for managers and supervisors to take part in an information session by the BVFA, where the charter's values and how it could help with municipal delivery of services will be explained.

Coun. Joanna McCallum said she was still struggling with what can be accomplished through the charter, but was willing to “take a leap of faith” since there were no actions being asked of the Town or a financial ask.

“I see a lot of high-level talk, but I don’t see the daily walk of what it is we’re talking about and what it is we’re signing. … I know it’s important for a lot of people who are there and maybe at some point I’ll get it," she said.

Coun. Jeff Hilstad said he was worried about adding additional work to Town staff, but the relationship building was key.

“I was worried it was another thing to add,” he said. “I don’t see the endpoint right now, but it is building relationships, which is awesome, so I’ll be happy to sign.”

Since being established in 2016, the BVFA’s mission is to address and advocate for food concerns and issues in the valley. Its goals include support for community-based food systems and food security issues that are faced by many residents.

The charter looks to help strengthen local food systems and programs to better address food affordability concerns and accessibility. It also helps with policy guidance for elected officials.

A pair of research reports papers released last summer examined the strengths and weaknesses of food security in the Town of Canmore and the MD of Bighorn. The two papers also outlined recommendations to potentially help the two municipalities.

The 22-page paper on Canmore listed 10 strengths such as community gardens, cultural food groups and community meals. However, there were also 10 challenges in affordability, social injustice and disparities.

The paper had 11 recommendations for the Town, among them being supporting diverse food systems, developing and advocating for ecologically regenerative food systems and increasing support for community food programs.

One of the issues discussed was the jurisdiction a municipality has in the role of food security, specifically with much being in the realm of the provincial and federal governments.

“Food is part of our relationships. We form relationships and build them over food, meals,” said Coun. Tanya Foubert. “We break bread together. We celebrate important cultural events with food.”