The regional government will provide approximately $2,000 for an inventory of food sources, vendors and supporters in the West Kootenay.
The inventory is one of the recommendations of the Regional Food Security Action Plan, which was completed in July 2021 by the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council and funded by the Regional District.
“The action plan was primarily driven by the pandemic, but driven by the broader understanding that there are all sorts of reasons why our food supply chains may be vulnerable over time, and that it would be wise on climate change and anything else that’s coming to us to have some kind of action plan,” says Abra Brynne, executive director of the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council.
“So that when things go wrong, we have the ability to take care of ourselves to the greatest extent possible.”
The RDCK Board of Directors approved funding for the Food Resource Inventory at its December meeting. Brynne says some general planning for the project has been done and information gathering should begin in earnest this spring.
“The inventory will certainly include farms and primary producers, that’s fundamental, but up and down the supply chain, it’s important to understand what we have in terms of distribution, storage, aggregation and processing,” Brynne explains, “and associated services… Do we still have people who can provide services like plowing fields, installing fences, or people who provide advice on parasites, or veterinarians?These are all parts of a food system asset map.
She added that more intangible resources will also be collected for the asset map – social assets, knowledge keepers and cultural understandings.
“It’s all part of what we’re going to explore in terms of building the picture of what we have here and how we can make the most of it,” she says.
While praising the local government for its proactive efforts to improve food security in the area and ensure residents have access to emergency food resources, she says we still have “a long way” to go before the region can consider itself food secure. But she says we have moved in the right direction.
“We kind of adapted – the first warning signal of the pandemic was big, but with 2021 and the climate impacts of the heat dome, and the floods, and now the loose snow, these have really brought back to home and focused attention more on the vulnerabilities of the food system,” she said.
Brynne says the need to switch to safer food sources became very evident when flooding cut off the Lower Mainland from the rest of the province in November – and store shelves in Kootenays began to empty of meat and vegetables.
She says businesses in the area that had already made a strong commitment to working with local food suppliers, like the Kootenay Co-op, were well positioned to keep their shelves stocked.
And that’s why RDCK’s board-approved food inventory is important, Brynne believes.
“It will make that journey much easier for other businesses that want to access more local sourcing.”