Elton and Cole (2022) argue that gardening and other self-provisioning strategies are part of building essential culinary infrastructure (including enhanced food access) for cities. The strategies outlined here focus on self-provisioning, but many are also applicable to small scale commercial urban farming. See Goal 5, Sustainable Food, State of sustainable farming. Some of them are also linked to Goal 1, Equitable access to food retail and alternative food projects. Because self-provisioning is inherently regional in focus, strategies will have to be adapted to local circumstances and not all will be applicable for every setting. Many of the sections highlight something happening in a particular region as emblematic of what other areas of Canada might adopt.
Most municipalities with significant focus on urban food production use a combination of official plans, related plans linked to the Official Plan, by-laws, policies, and programs to bring direction and implementation to their efforts. Some municipal officials argue that activities like community gardens can take place without specific municipal tools, but it appears that those cities with specific interventions are more likely to have more significant activity (cf. Soderholm, 2015). Regarding related plans, a number of municipalities have specific food and agriculture plans, strategies, and/or Food Charters, including Victoria, Vancouver, Kamloops, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, London, Kawartha Lakes, Montreal, and Halifax (see also MacRae and Donahue, 2013).
Municipal official plan statements regarding food production and food system function
Two of the better-developed Official Plans, that many other municipalities should adapt to their circumstances, are those of Victoria, BC, and Edmonton (Curran, 2019). Victoria's Official Community Plan has a 5-page section on food systems that focuses on food security and sustainability. It contains a wide range of objectives regarding food system planning, access to food, gardening on public and private land, food system infrastructure, and food waste reduction. The other important feature of the plan is a section on adaptive management. This is important for many of the issues addressed under Goal 7. Adopted in 2010, the Edmonton Municipal Development Plan contains a 5-page section on Food and Urban Agriculture. It also speaks to the need for a local food and a sustainable food system and imagines linked zones of food system activity from the core out to the countryside. It specifically names the need for an Edmonton Food Charter and a city-wide Food and Agriculture Strategy that integrates food production into public and private spaces.
In the absence of significant language in the Official Plan, it is important that cities at least have a food and agriculture plan, strategy, or Charter. Many of these exist in Canadian cities and they set out the broad direction for supporting urban food production, amongst other things (cf. MacRae and Donahue, 2013). The forest management plan of a city is another important area for directive statements. Ottawa’s Urban Forest Management Plan includes the recommendations to "Support the planting of edible landscapes and encourage registration of existing edibles on public and private lands" (Ballamingie et al., 2019).
A key challenge of municipal plans is ensuring other instruments bring force to the intentions stated in the plans. Frequently, statements and instruments are misaligned or incomplete. For example, Toronto's Official Plan contains broad language to encourage food growing on rooftops, and the re-organization of zoning categories was designed to be consistent with the OP and includes a sub-category of the Industry category called Market Gardens, defined as “an area that is used for the growing of plants. A market garden is not on a residential property. Lands such as Hydro corridors or roof tops could also be used for growing food and plants”. Although there are food-growing rooftop gardens, Toronto's Green Roof By-law is inadequate to incentivize food production and is designed primarily for vegetative cover, important, but insufficient to create significant numbers of rooftop production sites (MacRae et al., 2012).
Equally important, it is sometimes ancillary rules and by-laws that prevent the implementation of urban food production. An analysis conducted for the City of Hamilton in 2013 showed how a range of rules covering fences, temporary buildings, soil, pesticides, property standards, drainage, signs, and noise can all have restraining impacts on food production (Corey et al., 2013). Ensuring these are consistent with intentions expressed in plans is a critical component of municipal success.
Municipal by-laws regarding food production and food system function
By-laws are a most concrete way to bring effect to plans, with zoning and animal by-laws the most common sub-categories relevant to this discussion. However, cities infrequently specify urban food production as a land use (Soderholm, 2015), with a few positive exceptions.
Important examples that can be adapted to other municipalities include:
- Edmonton Bylaw 17527 permits indoor urban growing in some shopping centre and business district zones, outdoor operations in some commercial and community service zones, and gardens in residential zones (Curran, 2019)
- City of Nanaimo Zoning By-Law (no.4500) permits an urban food garden in all zones provided that it does not create odour beyond those on sites without gardens (Part 6).
- Hamilton Zoning by-law 05-200 allows urban farms (4.26) and community gardens (4.27) in many existing zoning districts, with restrictions on backyards and rooftops.
Important changes to rooftop bylaws and associated programs for food production are required. Although many cities have green roofs, they operate often in a restricted or grey area. Montreal rooftop food producers have done well in a relatively unspecified regulatory environment, but they are seeking greater precision, and this is probably not a viable approach for cities across the country. Admittedly, agriculture on rooftops creates new land use related challenges to traditional authorities (Curran, 2019), and this suggests clarity is required. Toronto's green roof by-law provides an example of what needs to happen to incent food production and other municipalities could base their green roof by-law on a revised version proposed here.
The current bylaw requires green roofs for new builds post-2009 although there is also a cash in lieu option. There is also an incentive program to help with costs. The requirements work for a thin vegetative cover (extensive design), but do not encourage food production (intensive design) which is an option in the bylaw but has additional demands, costs, and potential liabilities. Typically, an agricultural green roof needs (Brown et al., 2019):
- usually higher load bearing requirements because there is more soil depth;
- guardrail protections if wall height is insufficient since people have to be on the roof
- elevator access to bring materials up and food down
- Some protections from wind and excess sun and heat may be required
- access to water, with drip irrigation systems likely the most useful backups to rain and rain barrels
- lease arrangements may be required if the gardeners are not part of the residential building
By law changes
- Section 492-9 L(2) of the bylaw states that “plant selection and design shall be such that within three years of the planting date the selected plants shall cover no less than 80 percent of the vegetated roof.”This needs to be modified, as has been done in City and County of Denver, Colorado bylaw, which adds "or be used and maintained for the purpose of urban agriculture”. The bylaw should permit crop coverage to fall below 80% for a specified number of months in a year which could be part of the by-law change or could be specified in guidance documents. Otherwise, it is not possible to use annual plants (ideally in rotation and with cover crops) to meet the cover requirement.
- Section 492-9 K states: “In order to support plant survivability: (1) When structurally possible, the growing media shall be at a minimum 100 mm”. For agricultural roofs, the minimum growing media should be 200 mm. This would be consistent with changes to Division B structural (load) requirements in the Ontario Building Code.
- Section 492-9 N requires applicants a maintenance plan for vegetation survival, such as irrigation and debris removal, but give. additional tasks and labour associated with food growing roofs, the bylaw should require a more detailed maintenance plan for agricultural green roofs.
- The Construction Standard (492-8) would need modifications to reflect these structural realities.
- There may also be issues regarding zoning for food production on rooftops, given the City's current restrictions. This should certainly be closely examined.
- The associated Eco-Roof Incentive Program should be expanded for retrofits to include agricultural green roofs. Current eligibility and documentation requirements could disfavour an agricultural application, though some have apparently been approved. The incentive for food-producing roofs should be raised to $125/m, leaving the benefit for vegetative roofs at the current level of $100/m. This might also require a relative increase in the grant ceiling. For new builds, an additional incentive program should be created in which a monetary contribution is assigned to a square meter of agricultural green roof installed.
- Gardening boxes should qualify as intensive agricultural greenroofs under the incentive program. Currently, they do not because city staff consider them non-permanent, but they are an important consideration for building retrofits, especially for non-profits and institutions. The city would need assurance that they will not be removed once supports are provided, so there should be requirements that support be returned if they are removed.
Livestock, fowl, and beekeeping
Animal by-laws can address urban animals, particularly chickens and bees, in three different ways: explicitly allowed; explicitly prohibited, or not mentioned. The latter category obviously creates a grey zone (Soderholm, 2015). Large animals are usually excluded except in zones specifically identified as agricultural. It is problematic that chickens and bees are often controlled under animal control by-laws with enforcement by animal control units, but this reflects the lack of food production regulatory instruments in most urban areas.
Victoria is interesting because its animal control by-law forbids roosters and peafowl, but does not name chickens. It appears that from this, city officials have determined that a household can have up to 15 poultry (chickens, ducks, geese). They must be contained on the home property, not in the front yard, or beside a neighbour's property or shared fence. They recommend specific kinds of coops and ask prospective chicken owners to consult animal control before going ahead. Other jurisdictions are more restrictive and specific about numbers/area ratios and aligning numbers with household egg consumption. It seems unlikely that any Canadian municipality needs to ban urban chickens, so all urban municipalities should at least commence pilots to test what rules are most suitable for their circumstance. Toronto permitted chickens until the 1980s, then banned them, and has recently started a limited pilot in 4 zones to test suitability running 2018-2022. A maximum of 4 hens is permitted with no sales. Coop, location, and maintenance/sanitation requirements are specified. Hens must be registered with the city and violations of the rules can result in impoundment. To the end of 2020, 234 hens in 80 households were registered and the pilot has apparently been positive (Pelley, 2020 and Toronto Animal Services, 2020).
For bees, Saskatoon has a very general provision providing for beekeeping with the sole restriction that they be well cared for and don't exhibit defensive behaviour. This is interesting in that no distance separation from residences is specified, a provision in many provincial regulations and/or urban by-laws, and one that is often difficult to comply with in denser neighbourhoods. Some municipalities have chosen not to enforce their provincial separation requirements as a result and provincial bee officials often take a hands-off approach to the details of urban beekeeping. Calgary has decided that it does not have jurisdiction over beekeeping so does not restrict it unless there is a complaint. Calgary beekeepers are supported by the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association. In most provinces, beekeepers are governed by a provincial Bee Act and must register hives with the provincial apiarist. Vancouver permits bees in community gardens as per its hobby beekeeping bylaw (No.7985), a maximum of two hives per parcel less than 10,000 sq. ft.
All this is fuzzy policy, but seems to be working given the number of cities that have urban bees. However, for jurisdictions requiring greater clarity (and consistent with what is happening in some province/municipality combinations), there would appear to be 3 options (Berquist et al, 2012):
- the Provincial Bee Act is amended to remove minimum separation requirements;
- the Provincial Bee Act retains minimum separation requirements but specifies that urban municipalities can exercise their own jurisdiction on the matter. Municipalities would then have the option of specifying more lenient restrictions as provided in the next option;
- the Provincial Bee Act retains existing separation distances for farming areas, but provides different options for urban ones that could include bee flight path restrictions, and/or hedge and fence heights around hives, and/or height of hive above the ground requirements, plus reduced separation distances.
Municipal program supports for gardening
Montreal is the best model currently because of the engagement of the municipality, degree of collaboration, and scale. Administered by the Department of Culture, Sports, Leisure, and Social Development, (DCSLDS), in concert with some other departments and community organizations. the city provides the land, equipment, and other materials, does maintenance and repairs on equipment and buildings, provides water, collects garden refuse, and has horticultural animators who visit gardens on a rotating basis and provide advice. The city works with volunteer gardener's associations on enrolment (using a City of Montreal portal) and garden maintenance. Sites are usually institutional, commercial or industrial. For a history of the interplay between the city, other institutions, and citizen groups leading to its creation and evolution, see Bhatt and Farah, 2016. Although city officials have been supportive, community garden organizations have had to keep pushing to enhance the program.
Important program elements to implement to improve success include (see also MacRae et al., 2012):
- Garden (and bees and livestock) resource centres. Many resources exist but not necessarily in co-ordinated locations linked to municipal garden programs
- Soil testing and decontamination. Since many gardens are located on abandoned sites, soil quality is a critical issue. Some municipalities have testing and decontamination protocols for community organizations (e.g., Toronto Public Health).
- Garden share (residential, MURB and institutional, indoor, outdoor, rooftops). Whitehorse has proposed doing this in their local food action plan.
- Seed and tool libraries. Seeds and tools are critical for successful gardening. There are many commercial seed companies and an increasing number focus on the urban and ecological marketplace. Many cities already have Seedy Saturdays, and informal seed exchanges operated by NGOs. Brampton, responding to COVID, offered one of the first city-wide programs in Canada to distribute seeds and plants to residents for their own gardens and to share the surplus with local community organizations. Halifax is taking a similar approach. Neighbourhood agricultural hubs, as found in Cuba, could provide specialized seeds and seedlings, along with other equipment and services.
- Garden barter markets. Because many municipalities restrict commercial sales from community gardens, barter markets have been established involving garden participants who share between gardens.
- Garden art. Many community and teaching gardens commission murals, sculptures, and environmental art as part of garden beautification. In some cases, municipalities support the artists through public art or more specific programs (cf. programs in Hamilton and Vancouver).
- School gardens. See Goal 3, Integrating food into educational processes.
- Municipal greenhouses. Some municipalities and paragovernmental agencies have greenhouses that are used for starter and bedding plants in municipal gardens. In some cases they are underutilized and all or parts of greenhouses have been integrated into the community garden system.
Improving composting and urban soil fertility programs (adapted from Dirks, 2021)
Soil fertility is of course critical for successful gardening. Excessive application of synthetic fertilizer is problematic and many jurisdictions are encouraging organic fertilizer use as a result (see also Goal 4 Fertilizer approvals). While individual homeowners can make their own compost from kitchen and yard waste, cities and institutional environments experience significant organic waste management challenges, given how much a part of the waste stream is food and yard waste. In Ontario in 2017, for example, organic waste was 32% of the total waste stream, but only 39% was recycled (Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2017). There remain, however, significant hurdles to making compost from municipal organic waste and when it is feasible, for use in food gardens. Ideally, compost is made once food waste is reduced, and where feasible human inedible food is provided to animals (see Goal 5 Food Waste Reduction).
We see once again how divided jurisdiction and unsuitable conceptual frameworks result in suboptimal performance. The federal government is responsible for approving fertilizers and the Fertilizer Act serves poorly ecological nutrient management (see Goal 4). Organic waste is regulated primarily under waste management authorities, not those related to soil fertility, both of which are largely provincial, but the provinces have chosen to consider this a waste management issue and rely on municipalities to operationalize their waste management directives.
Municipal approaches to organic waste vary tremendously by province and municipality. In general, municipalities do a better job of single unit residential household organic waste diversion than institutional, commercial, industry, and multi-residential sectors. Even municipalities with significant organic waste diversion don't necessarily prefer organic waste as fertilizer. If the material is composted, it is often done anaerobically in centralized facilities and whether aerobic or anaerobic, typically, the quality of the compost is usually too low to be used for food production. The challenge then is to put in place programs that make use of organic waste for soil fertility. The City of Toronto has recognized, at least inherently in some of its policy documents, that the issue of compost quality for a wider range of soil applications including food production is tied to increased waste diversion rates, but this awareness has yet to translate to appropriate organic waste program designs.
Backyard, vermi and 3-bin composters
Backyard composting is the most ecologically and cost-effective, given that the distance from the kitchen and yard to the compost pile is very short, and the compost can be spread often within metres of the composting site. As a result, many municipalities have distributed backyard composters at reduced rates and provided household education. Unfortunately, some cities, including Toronto, have abandoned their earlier backyard programs in favour of curbside pickup, and yet it still comprises 12% of total organics diversion based on the earlier investments in the program (see Vidoni, 2011). This has produced greater waste diversion (the primary driver of Toronto waste management policy), but also significantly higher costs and lower compost quality and optimized utilization.
Municipalities should have backyard, vermi and 3-bin programs with units for sale at reduced prices and educational programs. The vermicomposting and 3 bin units can be targeted to MURBs, with associated gardens. Obviously, building managers would also have to be on board.
Community composting/distribution and community compost exchanges (CCEs)
In most provinces and municipalities, waste management regulations discourage or forbid community composting, initiatives where organic waste is collected and composted within a neighbourhood. Many cities do not permit composting in parks which then often means restrictions at community garden sites. In many provinces, as soon as waste is collected offsite, the waste collector has to be registered and insured as a waste hauler, a designation with many requirements that are impossible for small neighbourhood processes to meet. Such waste hauler rules are obviously important with large scale operations, particularly those handling more toxic material. But they are insufficiently nuanced and scaled for community composting operations. In Ontario, Regulation 347 of the Environmental Protection Act requires compost facilities to have a Certificate of Approval. The smallest facility approval is a site collecting 100 tonnes daily (Vidoni, 2011), almost 1000 times more than the largest CCE operation in Toronto (FoodShare, 2019). Creating a new tiered system factoring in community composting and micro haulers needs to be put in place. When this happens, it will allow food scraps to be returned to purchase places - urban farms, farmers' markets, shops - without penalty, acting somewhat analogously to the bottle deposit system already in place in many provinces. The regulatory mechanism to do this already exists in Ontario, under article 5. Reg. 234/11, s. 4 of EPA regulation 347 to create a municipal waste pilot project to test out new systems. Zoning changes may also be important for MURBs to participate. For example, Toronto changed the zoning on many of its MURBs to Residential, Apartment, Commercial (RAC) which then permits more easily composting and gardening / farming operations on site. Exemptions from waste hauler regulations for small-scale community composting should be enacted under regulation 347 (for details, see Goal 5, Food Waste Reduction, Efficiency, Human and animal inedibles directed to compost and industrial applications).
A community compost exchange is a project whereby organic waste is traded for produce, often involving the use of alternative "currency" to facilitate the exchange process. On a neighbourhood scale, they are particularly valuable in areas with numerous multi-residential buildings, and small food enterprises, but with community and institutional gardens and urban farms to take the waste and turn it into compost. They can also be integrated with urban chicken programs, in that community sites can take excess chicken manure that households can't handle in their own composters. The composting process can also make use of wood chips and other yard waste. They can make a contribution to a Circular Economy approach and reduce the costs of municipal waste management.
How significant could this be with the right supports? Most cities are seriously underestimating the potential. Toronto, for example, has concluded that only 60 tonnes/year can be processed in this way by 2026. But a Chicago-based study concluded that over 1/4 of organic waste could be composted in community systems with the right infrastructure and regulatory framework (Pai et al., 2019).
Urban gleaning / foraging of fruit and nut trees
As discussed in The State of Self-provisioning, many urban areas produce fruit and nuts that go unharvested, often on public land. Urban foraging is a significantly under-represented agenda for urban planners, and many consider it "illegal" in public spaces, for reasons that are not entirely illegitimate (e.g., fears about biodiversity loss, food safety and contamination, reductions in amenity and aesthetic values), but for which solutions are possible given the right attention (Shackleton et al., 2017).
Cash and in-kind supports are needed for community-gleaning organizations. The rely extensively on volunteers, so accessing municipal community grants is a priority. Also, municipalities have equipment and resources that could help with the planting, mapping harvest and distribution process (Clark and Nicholas, 2013).
Public education on safe and ecologically sensitive gleaning practices, and enhancing access to public sites where gleaning can take place (Ballamingie et al., 2019)
Enhanced skills training
Although many acquire skills through family members, others look to more organized training approaches. Much knowledge diffusion takes place through training provided by the NGO sector. For example, Toronto Urban Growers offers videos, print material, and internship opportunities on their website. A number of community colleges and university continuing education programs offer online courses.
For middle and upper income communities with resources, access to training is usually less of an issue, but it can be a significant hurdle for low-income and racialized communities, especially when there is a focus on youth. Ensuring equitable, affordable access is a more expensive undertaking for community organizations. Some foundations currently provide support, and some government training programs have been used by community organizations to focus on youth training. But many of these focus on employment training, not self-provisioning. Similarly, labour force development training with Employment Insurance funds (Goal 7) is focused on employment.
There are examples of Poverty Reduction funding programs supporting training in self-provisioning. For example, the GNWT has funded the non-profit Hay River Farm Training Institute which provides training for both self-provision and small-scale economic development. Neighbourhood organizations and schools can be the foundation of training programs in low income neighbourhoods, especially feasible as school gardens and farms are ramped up (see Goal 3, Integrated food into educational processes). More formal collaboration between schools and community groups (many already exist), with funding from Poverty Reduction grant programs, helps overcome one obstacle, the absence of school officials and students during the summer months.
Expanding community storage, canning, kitchens, and freezers
Community food infrastructure that lies outside of the market is of variable strength across the country and not well characterized. Indigenous communities face numerous challenges in this regard (see Better supports for country foods). Many rural and low-income urban neighbourhoods also lack resources. This becomes more apparent during an emergency such as Covid (see also Goal 2, Emergencies). Food banks have experienced significantly higher demand and community pantry, freezer, and fridge programs have emerged in many neighbourhoods outside the formal food bank system, frequently operated by volunteers, though often in connection to a community agency. Many function on a take what you need, give what you can sharing model. There are reports of more outdoor community bake ovens being established (Glaros et al., 2021). Some of this ramping up of programming has happened through the federal government's Local Food Infrastructure Fund (see Goal 1, Equitable access to food retail, Efficiency, Other community food access projects).
Such initiatives can help build community resilience. They need both capital for equipment and operating dollars so that they are not completely reliant on volunteers. And to take them out of the realm of charity, they need to be linked to community development processes. In the mid-1990s, the Toronto Food Policy Council operated the Food Access Grant Program, funded by surplus revenues associated with the Toronto Parking Authority and federal infrastructure money and authorized by Toronto City Council. Over 2 years, the co-ordinator Deborah Wharton facilitated the allocation of $2.4 million to community projects to build primarily infrastructure (kitchen upgrades, vans, equipment, facilities renovations). A lack of funding for operations somewhat reduced the positive impacts of the program, but it did unleash a wave of activity that continues to this day in Toronto.
The Local Food Infrastructure Fund, in its next wave of funding, should have a stream dedicated to building community resilience of this kind, occupying an important space between the market and emergency charity, guided by community development principles, with both capital and operating dollars. Municipalities with significant capital budgets (admittedly there are numerous priorities after years of underspending on infrastructure and significant transit needs) or access to federal infrastructure dollars should consider allocating a small amount to community food infrastructure.
Better supports for country foods
As discussed under The State of Self-provisioning in Canada, it is well established that country foods are less available, with impacts related to climate change a significant part of the story. Increased difficulty hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering often means longer distances to travel and the need for more technology for safety. But many individuals and communities don't have the resources and/or knowledge to adapt to these changes. Colonialism has disrupted what would historically have happened within communities. Government programs exist to help with some of the expenses and training, but people in the community don't necessarily know to apply and there aren't necessarily services to help people access what exists. As Shukla and Settee (2020) conclude, government policy must be changed to nurture environments for indigenous food systems. Because of the integrated connections between people, worldviews, culture, spirituality, the land, food, health, resurgence and reconciliation, a wide range of colonial policies must be dismantled. Not all these dimensions will be addressed here (see Substitution and Redesign).
According to Haman et al. (2010) four factors hinder (and can enhance with the right interventions) the revival of traditional food systems: (1) knowledge of traditional food harvesting, preparation, and consumption; (2) the additional costs of hunting, trapping and fishing; (3) reduced availability/sustainability of traditional foods in a range of locales; and (4) access to land and water for hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. As a backstop, while traditional food systems are revived, policies and programs to ensure access to affordable and healthy market foods are also important (Power, 2008).
Protecting the land and water for self-provisioning is critical. "Protection of Indigenous foodscapes is, thus, essential for the legal and socio-economic health of Indigenous communities" (Curran, 2019:156). But colonial laws have not well protected such foodscapes, in part because reconciliation is more about process than outcomes, in part because natural resource use is considered by settler law an exception to any foodscape protection requirements (Curran, 2019).
Indigenous people are protecting their traditional territory as part of nation-to-nation agreements. Although such protections need to be based on local determinations, three examples (two involving the provincial government, one the federal) are indicative of what must continue to develop. See also the Best Practices Guide for establishing conservancies by Gibson et al. (2020).
Asatiwisipe Aki Management Plan (Poplar River First Nation, 2011) is written documentation of stewardship practices over Poplar River’s traditional territory. The land-use plan articulates Poplar River’s self-determination and customary governance and is an integral element of the Manitoba government’s endeavor to protect the boreal forest through its East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas Act (2015) (Pawlowska-Mainville, 2020)
Conservancies protect the ecological function of foodland of almost 25% of [the Great Bear Rainforest of Central BC] and are collaboratively managed by First Nations and the provincial government through agreements addressing the exercise of Aboriginal rights. (Curran, 2019:160)
The Deh Cho First Nations Assembly designated Edéhzhíe as the first Indigenous Protected Area in Canada. Covering 14, 218 square kilometers, Edéhzhíe is ecologically important to the Deh Cho Dene culture, language, and ways of life" including gathering, hunting, and fishing. The 2018 Federal Budget contained support for a $1 billion nature fund. A new designation of park was endorsed, Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), which are designed and managed by Indigenous communities (Ross and Mason, 2020).
Invest in food system infrastructure development, upgrades and maintenance, including airstrips, airport facilities, ports, roads, retail outlet storage facilities and community facilities. Specific actions should include: a) Conduct a needs assessment of current community infrastructure to determine how food storage and transportation could be improved and how it is vulnerable to climate impacts, b) Invest in dedicated community food spaces (food centres, community kitchens, community freezers etc.) that are used for programming, c) Create a northern food infrastructure investment plan in collaboration with Inuit organizations, provincial and territorial governments, and private businesses, d) Support Inuit households facing loss and damage to harvesting infrastructure (cabins, snowmobiles, hunting equipment, etc.) associated with permafrost thaw, coastal erosion, and the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
Invest in the development of local food businesses and initiatives that support innovative models of food production, harvesting and processing: a) Support sharing of best practices of local food businesses and initiatives between Inuit communities and regions, b) Promote information on funding opportunities available to local food businesses and initiatives, c) Establish Inuit Nunangat-wide dialogue on the need for links between local food initiatives and surveillance of increasing exposure to emerging climate-sensitive food and water-borne infectious and gastrointestinal diseases, and emerging contaminant pathways.
Local institutions, such as health centres, can help improve infrastructure, for example upgrading kitchen facilities to aid procurement of country foods and devote a certain percent of their budget to the purchase of country foods. This can involve acquiring a special dealer license from the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC) (cf. Thompson et al., 2014). Community freezers, often supported by local community government and organizations, exist in some locales for people with limited sharing networks and unable to hunt. There are many different program designs and its not clear how big an impact they have, with variability community by community, and different structures and voluntary donation vs. purchase from hunters (Kenny et al., 2018). Robin et al. (2021) highlight the limited number of circumstances where food safety rules have been altered to permit expansion of community and commercial access to country foods and these new approaches to traditional food safety must be expanded. Judge et al. (2022) also highlight the somewhat more progressive rules in some of the territories compared to provinces, and the provinces should adapt to the territorial approaches. See also Goal 4 Appropriately scaled food safety.
Government programs are generally underfinanced relative to the need, but their existence provides experiences and templates on which to build. Community Harvesters Assistance Programs are in operation with a range of national, regional, and local funders, but insufficient (Kenny et al., 2018). There are also concerns that these programs will reinforce market relations and erode community ones (cf. Wilson et al., 2020), so program design to support traditional sharing is critical. Some supports for country foods are provided through Nutrition North (see Goal 1, Equitable Access to Food Retail). The Country Food Development and Value-added Processing Initiative and Country Food Processing Methods Training Course is funded by numerous actors, including Aurora College, Inuvialui Regional Corporation, Inuvialuit Community Economic Development Organization (ICEDO) , Gwitch’in Tribal Council, GNWT: Education, Culture and Employment, GNWT: Industry,Tourism, and Investment. The Inuvialuit Country Food Processing Plant (ICFPP), now with the correct permits and inspections, has been able to donate processed country foods to The Children’s First Society, a daycare and child support centre in Inuvik, and several elders’ homes (Naylor et al., 2023).
Time on the land is important as part of elementary and secondary school programming, with support from Territorial and federal governments. For example, the Take-A-Kid-Trapping Program is funded by the government of the NWT. School programs get students out onto the land, bringing in food and medicinal plants for the community. For these programs to work well, it is important to have access to equipment, operating expenses and supportive principals who can work it into the curriculum (Wesche et al., 2016). There are also programs outside the school systems, for example, the Going Off, Growing Strong program in Nain, Nunatsiavut (ITK, 2017). Such initiatives need steady funding to link youth and elders for knowledge transfer around country foods (Shukla et al., 2019).