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Coun. Sean Chu calls out 'fluffy' sustainable food report

Committee hears progress report on Calgary's urban food production scene

Students get planting at Grow Calgary, one of the Urban farms in the city.

Helen Pike / Metro

Students get planting at Grow Calgary, one of the Urban farms in the city.

It was a report so "fluffy" Coun. Sean Chu couldn't help but air his hard concerns.

On Tuesday, during the Community and Protective Services Standing Policy Committee, Chu raised concerns during a progress report on the city's CalgaryEATS! Food Action Plan – a document that outlined the city's moves on the aspirational document since 2014.

The list of accomplishments on the roster included: Land Use Bylaw amendments for food production, an urban agriculture project, fresh food markets at transit stations, boulevard garden guidelines and more.

Chu's first concern when he heard urban farms was that the city was getting into animal farming.

"I really don't know where to start," said Chu, explaining in their One Calgary meetings councillors were told not to talk about "fluffy" stuff.

"This is totally fluffy. Let's be honest, we want to give food to everybody, provide everything to everybody – we want to be everything to everyone, can we do it? No, we can't."

He said right now there are places to buy food cheaply, and took issue with organic stores pricing out people who can't afford it – suggesting moving to organic food could be problematic for lower income folks.

"I love chips, but a bag of chips was six dollars and more," said Chu, recounting his time in an organic food store.

"Who are we kidding? Organic, all this stuff is what we're talking about."

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said he too had concerns with some of the aspirational goals in the report, saying that they didn't have well-defined timelines and weren't realistic, specific enough and measurable.

"I'll be supporting this receive for information," said Farkas. "I think on a go-forward basis this needs to be part of our overall discussion about what types of businesses we choose to get into, or not, as a municipality."

Coun. George Chahal was supportive of the CalgaryEATS! document and work. He said in Martindale he's met with a community gardener who plants food and shares it with his neighbours. He said there's more work to be done to help integrate aging communities with food sustainability.

When it was his time to speak, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said some of the Imagine Calgary directives are more fluffy than others, but said that it was an extensive piece of work with detailed directives by the city.

"This is a really good report, it's leading edge work, it's really important work," said Carra.

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