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City gathering ingredients for Winnipeg's first food council

Food Matters Manitoba policy director Rob Moquin said there are many ways municipal policy impacts how people access food.

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Advocates hungry for improved food policy in Winnipeg are salivating at the impending launch of the city’s first-ever food council.

But the soon-to-be created group, tasked with developing an overarching city food policy, should bite into more than just food-specific issues, according to Rob Moquin, of social justice group Food Matters Manitoba.

“You want to increase access to assortment, diversity, so we need things like comprehensive transportation planning as opposed to just locating grocery stores here and there,” said Moquin, the group’s policy coordinator. “It takes a balanced approach.”

The potential sway of a food council to affect change doesn’t end at transportation—Moquin said there are many policy areas in need of second look through a food-conscious lens.

Things like zoning for and incentivizing development of markets and grocers, planning transit to improve access to those sites, regulating (or deregulating) what can be sold at farmers markets, and allocating space for gardening or urban farming are all municipal decisions that “impact people’s access to food regardless of whether there is a food council.”

“In its absence the impacts still happen, we just don’t have a concerted effort towards making good choices,” Moquin said. “We don’t have a group looking at it holistically.”

But now that’s changing.

Donald Benham, manager of hunger and poverty awareness for Winnipeg Harvest, a non-profit that helps feed the hungry and raise awareness of food security issues, said he’s “very much looking forward to working with the food council to find long term solutions.”

“There are many, many Winnipeggers in every one of the 15 wards we know (who are food insecure),” he said. “We want to work with the community to end the need for food banks… if a Winnipeg food council can help us do that, we support that.”

Winnipeggers who want to be a part of it are able to apply for one of the 12 food council seats online until April 21. 

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