Posts Tagged ‘City of Ottawa’

Let’s start planning for food

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Photo: Flickr tcd123usa

The way governments plan — or don’t – for food affects everything fromfarming and economic development to health and the environment.

 The importance of planning for food is one of the key themes to emerge from Policies from the Field, a series of working papers released last week by local food advocacy group Sustain Ontario. The papers discuss ways that governments can use policy to support a healthier, more sustainable food system. An earlier Earthward post looked at the new papers on food policy councils, local food procurement, and planning among different government sectors.  In this post, I’ll cover the fourth paper in the series, which focuses on the role of land use planning in making local food more accessible.

What’s land use planning?

Land use planning refers to the way land and resources are managed. It sounds pretty abstract but it has a big effect on our communities. For example, it shapes things like neighbourhood design; the location of homes, businesses, roads and public transportation; how open spaces can be used; and to what extent farm land is protected.

So what’s in the Sustain Ontario paper on land use?

Called Increasing Land Access to Local Food, the paper was put together by Burgundy Dunn from the Canadian Environmental Law Association. It looks at land use planning strategies in support of a healthier food system that’s structured to:

  • provide space and infrastructure for local food activities such as farming, processing, distribution and retailing
  • be economically sustainable for small- and medium-sized farmers and local food businesses
  • make healthy food available to all communities, including low-income and remote communities, and
  • operate in environmentally sustainable ways.

The paper provides examples of what other cities in North America have done to plan more effectively for healthy food.

What changes does the paper recommend?

  1. Plan for food. Unlike issues such as health, water and housing, only food has been sidelined as a planning issue, seen as a private sector activity rather than an essential community need. This has to change, the paper argues. Besides preserving farm land, local food production and infrastructure should be integrated into provincial and municipal policy, plans and legislation. More mixed use zoning should be encouraged to ensure that food sources like supermarkets, farmers’ markets, community gardens and restaurants are integrated into or near residential areas. Food and transit planning should also be integrated to improve food access.
  2. Increase the availability of healthy food in all neighbourhoods. Change policies and regulations to encourage retail food sources – farmers’ markets, small processing facilities, distribution centres for regionally produced foods. Municipal governments could recognize farm stands and markets, and urban agriculture as desirable land uses by providing space and transit and offering incentives for infrastructure.
  3. Create more opportunities for urban and peri-urban (land that adjoins urban land) farming. Farming should be formally recognized as an appropriate use of urban land. Governments should create and protect urban farm lands, offer up lands they own for urban farming and support urban agriculture as an economic venture.

Where can I find out about land use in Ottawa?

As with many things in Canada, jurisdiction is split among different levels of government. For example, as part of the National Capital Region, certain spaces in Ottawa come under federal/National Capital Commission jurisdiction.

The Ontario government Planning Act provides a land use planning system that’s intended to promote sustainable economic development and a healthy natural environment throughout the province. Within that framework, municipalities have leeway to tailor their decisions to local needs.

The City of Ottawa Official Plan outlines broad land use policies, as well as land use designations that specify what is or isn’t permitted in a given area. The City has designations for urban, expanding urban, rural, Greenbelt, open space and other land types, which are implemented through detailed zoning by-laws.

Is Ottawa doing any of the things Sustain Ontario paper suggests?

The City of Ottawa helps to support the work of Just Food which covers a variety of local food initiatives, including new farmer training, community gardens and development of a food hub. The city will also be represented on the soon-to-be-launched Ottawa Food Policy Council. However, at this point, the Official Plan does not explicitly plan for food.

What changes to Ottawa land use policies would you like to see to improve access to local food?

4 ways Ottawa’s new food trucks can boost sustainability

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Ottawa’s street food scene will soon start to sizzle, thanks to the City’s Friday announcement that 18 new food trucks and carts with creative menus had the green light to start serving customers in May. Instead of having to settle for fries and dogs, Ottawans will now have the chance to sample fresh seasonal dishes, seafood, Southeast Asian snacks and Cajun specialties from 11 trucks and 7 carts in dedicated spots across town. The new vendors will bring the total number of licensed food trucks and carts in the city to 62.

 A cult following for food trucks

In recent years, food trucks have developed a cult following in North America, with devotees using smartphone apps such as Eat Street, Roaming Hunger and Food Truck Fiesta to track down their favourites. In this city, aficionados stay up-to-date with Street Food Ottawa. But are these kitchens on wheels eco-friendly? After all, we’re talking about vehicles that often rely on some form of fossil fuel to get around and to run their onboard stoves and generators.

A lot depends on the choices vendors make about the type of energy to use (gasoline, propane, biodiesel, solar, etc.), as well as whether to source ingredients locally, and use recyclable or compostable packaging and utensils. But the consensus seems to be that — besides spicing up the urban foodscape — food trucks have the potential to contribute to sustainable communities and neighbourhoods. Here’s how.

  1. They support the local economy. When you buy from a locally owned truck or cart, you’re putting money into a small business in your community, not into the pockets of a national or international fast food chain.  A local owner may also be more likely to spend money locally and purchase local ingredients.
  2. They offer some environmental pluses over the bricks-and-mortar restaurant. For example, they use less water and don’t need to light, heat, cool or ventilate a full-service dining area.  In Ottawa’s case, the new trucks and carts will have assigned spots so they won’t be on the move.
  3. Local ingredients are showing up on more and more food truck menus, meaning fewer food miles, more support for local farmers and fresher, more seasonal food. Of the 18 new vendors approved by the City of Ottawa, at least five will create their menus around local ingredients. They include:
  • Benjamin Baird (of the Urban Pear restaurant): OttawaStreatGourmet – fresh, local, seasonal and ever-changing menu; to be located north side of Queen, west of O’Connor
  • Peter G. Bowen: Epicurean Munchie Truck — health-conscious, foodie-friendly, locally sourced cuisine; east side of Olmstead, south of Montreal Road
  • Jacqueline Jolliffe: Stone Soup Foodworks — local soups, tacos and sandwiches; east side of Spadina, north of Wellington. (Check out Chef Jacqueline’s recipe for potato and leek soup on Earthward.)
  • Tim Van Dyke: LUNCH – fresh, local ingredients in wholesome soups, salads and sandwiches; north side of Albert, east of Lyon
  • Gavin Hall: BOBITES – Best Organic Bites – organic baked potatoes with seasonal toppings; east side of Metcalfe, south of Sparks
  1. Customers can enjoy more diverse cuisine, better quality and healthier choices as street food continues to reinvent itself.  In the case of Ottawa’s new food truck vendors, the priority placed on quality cuisine and healthy ingredients is reflected in the makeup of the volunteer panel that chose the winning applicants. The panel represented Savour Ottawa, which promotes Ottawa as a culinary destination with an emphasis on local foods;  the sustainable food advocacy group Just Food; Ottawa Public Health; the Canadian Culinary Federation, a national association for cooks and chefs, and;  the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, a hospitality industry group.

You can find a list of Ottawa’s new food truck vendors on the City’s website.

What do you think of Ottawa’s decision to let new food truck vendors in on the action?