The Municipality of Halifax is hoping to lean on the ideas of citizens to create a plan that will land millions of dollars in federal government money to increase access to healthy food throughout the region.
“Folks may be surprised to know that one in seven families have a hard time putting the right kind of affordable, healthy food on the table. So, food security is a big issue for a lot of people within HRM [Halifax Regional Municipality],” Mike Savage said, the mayor of Halifax.
The Smart Cities Challenge is a national project initiated by the Government of Canada, where $50 million is up for grabs to the city that wins.
The challenge is for cities across the nation to submit an innovative business plan that will ultimately be used to help solve an important issue within that municipality.
The municipality is already working on a poverty strategy, and food insecurity has been identified as an element of that broader issue.
“It’s important to note that food insecurity is not about hunger, it’s more complex than that. It’s also about the need and affordability of food,” Sara Napier said, the president and CEO of United Way Halifax.
The United Way is partnering with the municipality to come up with solutions to complex social health issues, such as poverty and access to healthy food.
“Given Halifax, the size of our community and even the vibrancy of our community, it’s sometimes difficult to wrap our heads around, we have the second highest rate of food insecurity in Canada, of any other urban centre in Canada, other than Nunavut,” Napier said.
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The municipality is hosting nine upcoming public engagement sessions, calling on citizens to help facilitate ideas they feel would help address the root causes of food insecurity, and ways to greatly increase access to healthy food for all HRM residents.
Solutions that Mayor Savage believes residents have already helped to scratch the surface of.
“For example, if you go to the farm, Common Roots Farm, you’ll see Syrian refugees up there working. They love it, they know what they’re doing, they have a history in the agricultural side of things and they’re doing it here. So, there’s a lot of different ways to get people involved in providing healthy, nutritious, affordable, accessible food,” he said.
The public engagement sessions will be held on the following dates:
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