Food Charter a plan to chew on

Betina Ali and Deanna Tan-Francouer are hoping New Westminster
Betina Ali and Deanna Tan-Francouer are hoping New Westminster's new Food Charter will get people thinking about where the food in their refrigerator comes from, and opportunities to make the city more food sovreign.

Most people don’t give the food in their fridge much thought.

The people behind New Westminster’s new Food Charter want to change that.

The New Westminster Food Action Committee has just released the first draft of its food charter called Food For Every Body: A Food Sovereign New Westminster.

The document is a colourful assemblage of maps and charts that promote the message that food accessibility and sustainability are as important to the future growth of the city as zoning hearings and development permits, said Betina Ali of the action committee.

“When you have it in the community plan, food issues can’t be ignored,” she said.

Those issues include ensuring everyone has access to affordable, healthy and sustainable food, that children are able to eat nutritiously, new jobs are created, the environment is healthier and people feel more in control about the food they eat.

“Everyone is a piece of a grand puzzle,” said Deanna Tan-Francouer, a community health specialist with Fraser Health and another member of the action committee.

“The charter helps show them how they are pieces of the greater whole.”

The changing demographic of New West has also made the time right to enact a food charter, said Ali.

More people are thinking about the environment, and taking steps to improve their own sustainability, as well as that of their neighbours and their community.

One of those is Jen Arbo, who helped build the New Westminster Farmers Market into a regular community event as much as a place to stock up on fresh vegetables.

She said the food charter can be a guide to all those efforts by individuals and small groups of friends or neighbours who collaborate to build a community garden or organize a food swap or open a bakery.

“It brings food to the front of mind,” said Arbo. “It provides a bit of a system to take steps to change.”

It could also spark new ideas, said Tan-Francouer, like getting developers to build gardens on the roofs of new projects.

“We have to look at what we can do so we don’t have to rely so much on other people,” said Tan-Francouer.

With the help of funding from the United Way, members of the action committee spent much of the past year talking to community groups, service providers, and even examining food charters in other communities to find out what food issues are important. Now that their food charter is ready, the group hopes people will read it and take the time to provide feedback via a brief online survey.

“We think we have done a good job on the draft because we’ve really done our homework,” said Ali. “Now we need to check in with residents to be sure it resonates with them.”

The action committee will take that feedback to fine tune the charter and give them an idea of how to educate residents about its importance and role in the community.

“For people to think something is important, they have to understand why it’s important,” said Tan-Francouer.

The food charter and a link to the survey can be found at The survey is open until Feb. 28.


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