Tuesday, August 4, 2015

KPU researcher studying the future of food security in Metro Vancouver

When you go grocery shopping, the food you buy can come from all parts of the world. If you buy a package of cookies, the ingredients listed could come from multiply continents. Climate change, the cost of transportation, and the degradation of the environment are destabilizing how our current food system functions.

There is a growing recognition that in the near future food production will have to be more localized. This means that food will need to be grown, raised, and processed locally. We will not be able to rely on the availability of affordable Californian lettuce and tomatoes to feed people in Metro Vancouver.

Some regions will be in a better position than others as food production becomes more localized. In Metro Vancouver, we currently have an advantage as we are surrounded by high-quality agricultural land, have milder temperatures, and have access to water. There are, of course, threats to our ability to produce food locally. The biggest threat is from urban development of farmland.

Beyond food security, localized food production will also contribute to a stronger local economy.

Map of the Southwest BC Bio-Region. Select map to enlarge.

To quantify what our future may look like, researchers at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems are in the middle of a three-year research project that is studying what they call the Bio-Region of Southwest BC. The researcher define a Bio-Region as “areas that share similar topography, plant and animal life, and human culture.”

The food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population and includes the following key elements: pre-production, farming and wild harvest, processing and storage, distribution and marketing, consumption and waste management. Select graphic to enlarge.

The objects of the research project are to deliver insight in the following areas:

  1. How to increase self-reliance in agricultural production including land, water, and processing facility requirements
  2. How to minimize external inputs and optimize soil, water and air quality from agricultural production
  3. How to reduce and remove greenhouse gas emission from agricultural production
  4. How to increase biodiversity of crops and livestock types as well as how agricultural land can support wildlife habitat
  5. How to reduce the ecological footprint of the food system
  6. How to strengthen and enhance local farm and ancillary business
  7. How local agricultural production contributes to the local economy

The research project’s major funding partners are the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, R. Howard Webster Foundation, and VanCity. The project has received the support of the Agricultural Land Commission and many local governments. The Township of Langley has contributed $12,000 to the project and the City of Langley has contributed $6,000 to the project for example. The project team is looking for the support of Metro Vancouver as well.

When this project is completed, a policy framework will be produced that can guide all levels of government in supporting local food production in Southwest BC.

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