The first of many recommendations in fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy, was the creation of the Edmonton Food Council:
18.104.22.168: Establish the Edmonton Food Council (EFC) by June 1, 2013
22.214.171.124: Provide appropriate supporting resources to the EFC, which might include:
i) At least one full-time staff position to support the EFC.
ii) An operating budget and clerical support for the meetings. (p. 28, fresh)
City Administration acted upon this recommendation in the summer of 2013, recruiting 15 volunteer members to the Council, which held monthly meetings from September to July.
Under the direction of strategy consultant Beth Sanders and the City of Edmonton’s Hani Quan, the Council explored how they would operate in their role as a committee of Administration. Terms of Reference were developed and updated several times to reflect the evolution of the Council’s mandate. Working groups were formed to explore initiatives in land use and data sharing, and a governance committee was established.
Summary of Achievements
The Food Council served in an advisory capacity to City Administration on emerging food and urban agriculture issues. The Council provided advice on the Municipal Government Act, as well as feedback to the Zoning Bylaw Implementation Unit. Earlier in the year the Co-Chairs advocated for a role on the high profile issues of urban bees and hens, but the momentum and pace of the hens and bees projects did not provide an appropriate opportunity for the Food Council to be involved. This highlighted an opportunity for improvement in the way the Council and City Administration communicate and work together.
City Councilors and Mayor’s Meetings
Co-Chairs for the Food Council met with the Mayor and Councilors to introduce the Food Council and to seek input on their role and function. The comments by City Council encouraged communication and consensus and led to the Food Council hosting a forum on the topic of community gardens.
Community Gardens Forum
The majority of City Councilors said that they wanted to hear from citizens about the community gardens process. Five panelists spoke at the Food Council’s first community forum, and more than 50 interested Edmontonians participated in the successful discussion.
In order to communicate its goals and vision the Food Council required its own website. The visual identity and website were developed in the latter half of 2014. It will act as a portal for public engagement on food and agriculture issues, a recruitment tool for new members, and puts a human face on the Council. It will be publicly launched in 2015.
The Road Forward
The Council will concentrate on its advisory role on matters specifically related to the implementation of fresh, providing oversight and support to the ongoing implementation.
The Food Council’s achievements will depend upon appropriate funding and staff time. The members of Council are volunteers, and while this provides a broad range of experience sets and perspectives, this may also prove to be a challenge.
Having a clear vision of its mission and role, backed by Terms of Reference and a succession plan, bodes well for the future of the Edmonton Food Council. We are confident that a solid foundation has been created which will advance future Councils and food and urban agriculture in Edmonton.
The Edmonton Food Council 2013-2014
Mary Bailey, Co-Chair
Jennifer Fisk, Co-Chair