Institute For Sustainable Food Systems Creates Policy Database
Culture / September 17, 2017
The database is meant to be a tool for increasing sustainability in the food industry
Joseph Keller, Staff Writer
Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute For Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS) has spent the last year and a half developing a tool to make navigating local bureaucracies easier for municipal planners who are looking to integrate sustainable food solutions into their communities.
The B.C. Food System Policy Database serves as a library of the food system policies that exist in British Columbia so that planners can easily find the regulations and policies that apply to their operations.
“This is an example of the kind of purposeful work we [at ISFS] do to support B.C. communities, B.C. citizens, and our sustainable future,” says Dr. Kent Mullinix, the director of the Institute For Sustainable Food Systems.
Hosted on KPU’s website, the database is searchable by keywords, location, population, level of government, and more. The system includes over 2000 citations from 40 per cent of the municipalities in the province and official community plans, area agriculture plans, bylaws, policies, food charters, and other relevant information.
“[The data] is certainly not exhaustive, but it is extensive,” says Mullinix.
The idea for such a database came to the attention of the ISFS through their work with municipal organisers who have had difficulty navigating the various separate local sources to find out what policies apply to local food systems. Mullinix says that, in the short time the database has been online, the ISFS has already received positive feedback from municipal planners who have utilized the system for their projects.
“They told us it would just be exceedingly valuable to them to quickly assess what kinds of policies around various food system issues there are across the province,” says Mullinix.
This database is the first tool of its kind in Canada. The ISFS is currently working with the University of Alberta to put together a similar database for municipalities in that province, which will likely also be hosted on the KPU website. Mullinix says that the ISFS is open to sharing their methodology with any province wishing to put together a food system policy database.
A year and a half ago, the ISFS received funding for the project from the Real Estate foundation of B.C. which Mullinix says is one of the most ardent supporters of projects and studies that foster stewardship of natural resources in B.C. He also explains that the bulk of the development time was spent painstakingly scanning the policies of B.C. municipalities from several sources.
As of now, the database includes information from 40 per cent of B.C. municipalities. Mullinix says that the ISFS chose to focus on the largest municipalities in the province, including all 27 Lower Mainland communities.
The ISFS encourages planners and municipal staff to let them know if there is a policy that should be included but is not yet on the site.
“We really see this database existing as a dynamic database,” says Mullinix.