Addressing Food Security in the City of Barrie – We need to work together!
Written by: Naomi Wachowiak, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit
In March 2013, local stakeholders gathered at Barrie’s Southshore Community Centre to participate in a full-day workshop. The goal of the workshop was collaborative community action to increase local food security and a sustainable food system. By the end of the day, over 80 workshop participants:
- Increased their knowledge about food security and the food system,
- Were involved in discussions to understand what is occurring in the Barrie community,
- Participated in facilitated group discussions to identify short and long-term priority actions,
- Had an opportunity to network and collaborate with others, and
- Developed strategies and/or strengthened existing initiatives.
The morning portion included an opening address by Barrie Mayor Lehman which was followed by presentations from David Miller (former mayor of Toronto), Christine Bushey (Manager, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit), Lauren Baker (Coordinator Toronto Food Policy Council) and Mike Fox (Transition Barrie).
After taking in a number of morning presentations, workshop participants pitched ideas about new projects they wanted to see started or an existing initiative they needed assistance with. In small groups, they created action plans and identified resources and timelines. These project ideas then were grouped together based on common themes to assist those individuals/organizations committed to the projects to collaborate and leverage resources. Each of the themed project ideas were then placed on the wall with a stakeholder wheel. Participants placed sticker(s) within the appropriate sections on the stakeholder wheels according to the level of support they felt they could contribute to the proposed activity/initiative.
Five stakeholder wheels were generated.
- Education & Food Skills
- Food Hub/ Farmers’ Market
- Farmland Preservation
- Improving Food Access
Throughout the course of the day, workshop participants also shared thoughts on their vision for a “Food Secure Barrie”. The main themes from these ideas included:
- Farmland preservation
- Urban agriculture
- Education and skill building
- Local food distribution-hub/centre
- Access to affordable healthy food for all
- Other supporting ideas suggested the need for policy, funding and collaboration.
Lisa Tolentino, from HC Link, consulted with the workshop planning group to assist with the planning and facilitation of the workshop. Her suggested activities were very helpful in aiding the participants to work together to fulfill the goals of the workshop.
Two action items moved forward from the 2013 workshop that addressed the vision themes of access and collaboration; these were FruitShare Barrie, a fruit gleaning initiative, and the Barrie Community Food Security Coalition.The Coalition’s action plan includes the following activities:
- Networking & Collaboration to build links and enhance collaboration among food system stakeholders in the Barrie community, and liaise at a county level with the Simcoe County Food Partners Alliance and other area communities.
- Monitoring & Communicating Barrie’s food security issues and needs over time, and sharing information among local food system stakeholders (i.e. producers, consumers, businesses, service providers, policy-makers, educators).
- Awareness & Education to support and promote increased community awareness in relation to food security, and coordinate support for education and skill-building (i.e. food skills training/workshops).
- Celebration of Food & Culture to promote opportunities for the celebration of local food, culture, and diversity within the community.
- Resource Coordination to provide support with sourcing resources and applying for funding to support community food security initiatives in Barrie.
- Policy – Identify and advocate for healthy public policy changes that will advance food security in the Barrie community.
The results of this new platform for collaboration are beginning to emerge. The first two projects of the Coalition will be launched in late winter 2015. First, another more focused workshop will be held to continue engaging and mobilizing stakeholders to do this work. Second, a Report Card for the City of Barrie local food system will be released. The Report Card will create a new knowledge mobilization tool that can be used to:
- Guide the development of programs, initiatives, communications and policies.
- Inspire dialogue with elected officials, City staff, food producers, schools, community organizations/agencies and local businesses to enhance opportunities for food system improvement.
- Make the relationships among sectors in the food system more explicit.
- Inform research and grant writing.
- Highlight trends and pinpoint areas of concern for the City of Barrie food system.
- Identify priorities for action and policy development.
- Celebrate food champions and identify best practices.
We are very excited to see this work continue and grow. It’s important to consider opportunities that promote an understanding of the multiple benefits of healthy food. Healthy food makes healthy cities. Looking at community food security through the lens of the entire food system provides opportunity for employment and economic development, fosters environmental sustainability, community development and resiliency, and promotes health of the community’s citizens.