Some common questions and answers about food charters. If you have a question, please feel free to email us or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
Is the food charter set in stone?
No, a food charter is not set in stone. It is a ‘living’ document. It was written and compiled by a diverse group of community partners/members/organizations who collaborated for months. But it can change and be updated as the local food landscape changes.
What is the impact of a food charter?
The impact can be broad or specific, and will differ between communities. A food charter can:
- Inform future guidance in planning (ex municipal strategic planning, work plans for organizations etc)
- Encourage civic engagement that supports a sustainable food system
- Offer a ‘reference point’ for the community’s vision of their food system
- Act as a catalyst for future food policy and program development
- Provide context for community action and be utilized as a “tool in the toolkit”
- Encourage collaboration between diverse sectors based on the commonality of food
- Offer a venue to open up discussion or “start the conversation” about food systems/issues
- Increase awareness of food systems and how they relate to us
- Connect existing networks, guide emerging efforts and create a starting point for dialogue
If we agree, do we have follow what is outlined in the charter?
A food charter isn’t meant to be prescriptive or binding in any fashion. It is meant to offer decision makers, community groups or individuals an overall guide for shaping food-related policy, projects or decisions. Something that folks find quite helpful is looking at the “Action toolkits” which basically translate the 6 principles of the food charter into action.
Why should municipalities care about food systems?
Municipalities have a role to play! They have the ability to shift the dynamics of the food system to work to their benefit in terms of increasing economic development, promoting health for their citizens, improving environmental sustainability, and increasing culture and tourism opportunities.
- Food is a big part of our economy, food sector employs 1/8 people in Canada. One study showed if every household spent just $10/week on local food, there would be an extra $2.4 Billion in the provincial economy.
- Food production, distribution and consumption have significant environmental impact, which is something municipalities more and more are being pushed to prioritize
- Food can be related to culture, recreation, tourism and economic development. There are many ways food can be built into municipal planning.
- Municipalities can have a considerable collective impact when it comes to food systems work.
What else do we need to know and/or do?
The food charter is not the ‘end product’ of the work related to food systems. Often, food charters lead to development of a food policy council or some sort of food action group, down the road. These groups give legs to the charter document itself and put action to the principles in the charter. The food charter can act as a sort of ‘terms of reference’ for a larger body of work. This ongoing work is something that we would encourage municipalities, community members and organizations to be actively involved in.
Charter – a document outlining the principles, functions, and/or structure of a corporate body, organization or group. Examples of other charters include the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A food charter is a vision statement that defines what a community wants their local or regional food system to look like. It is not a legal or binding document- it is purely visionary. A food charter represents what we stand for; it doesn’t necessarily outline what we must achieve.
Food policy – any decision made by a government organization which affects how food is produced, processed, distributed, purchased and protected. It can take place at any scale – can be legislative, regulatory or visionary.