This toolkit is a guide for those who wish to work with local government on food policy. It describes how to navigate the complexities of food policy and local government, focusing on how best to do this work – exploring what to do rather than why. The intent is to enhance the effectiveness of civil society engaged in food systems change.
Food policy is embedded at all levels of government and is as complex as the food system. The scope of food policy within the authority of local government is narrower than that of the provincial or federal government. Nevertheless, local government frequently offers greater opportunities for citizens to be engaged, build relationships and influence policy. And it is in communities where the possibilities for good public policy and the repercussions of poor public policy are most tangible.
Despite the weight and scope of policy at federal and provincial levels that dominate the policy landscape, local government is implicated in food systems. However, how and why food intersects with local government can be as opaque to those within government as it is to civil society. This toolkit can help to identify areas where food systems might fit withing local governments. For example, local government can influence access to healthy food through zoning by-laws and transportation policy; it can support local agriculture through space for farmers markets and by laws that protect agricultural land; and it can implement actions to support community-based food programming.
Food policy can fall within federal, provincial, regional and/or municipal governments, and as a result, there is often jurisdictional overlap. When it comes to food policy, jurisdictional overlaps between the different levels of government are further complicated by the fact that the associated policy covers realms as diverse as access, diet and
health, land and fisheries management, economic development and public health to name just a few aspects of food systems. As such, “food policy” itself is a misnomer – there is very little policy that is explicitly “food”, per se.
This Toolkit provides consistent evidence-based and expert-informed messages for use in communication about health and the built environment. The content is grouped by five physical features of the built environment. Intended as a resource to serve as a conversation starter between public health practitioners and decision-makers in municipal and regional governments. It includes a section on healthy food systems.