Chilliwack rejects joining food security study

The City of Chilliwack has rejected a request to contribute $12,000 to a regional food security project.

The City of Chilliwack has rejected a request to contribute $12,000 to a regional food security project. Nearly every major municipality in the Lower Mainland has provided funding.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University researcher Kent Mullinix approached the city in late 2012 to take part in designing a “roadmap” towards greater regional food self-sufficiency. The three-year project proposes to examine the local geography and existing food practices, and then design a food system with a view toward strengthening local food. This would include redesigning existing production, processing, and distribution systems.

Mullinix has already raised over $1 million of his $1.5 million goal, with 34 communities in the lower mainland signing on. This includes Abbotsford, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Vancouver. The University of the Fraser Valley is a leading partner.

The City of Chilliwack says that participating in the project would mean duplicating work that the city has already done.

“The feeling of staff is that this proposal is a large project driven by academics who want to look into this. We have other mechanisms to support agriculture in Chilliwack,” David Blain, director of planning and engineering, told city council on Tuesday.

Chilliwack’s agricultural area plan was created with the aim to make the city an agricultural centre of excellence, says city councillor Ken Huttema. Many of its strategies have been implemented, including promoting locally produced products, and expanding agriculture education. Hand in hand is CEPCO, which has attracted food processors to the area when there was a shortage.

“There’s different organizations that play an integral part in ensure agriculture continues to thrive,” says Huttema. “Putting any more resources toward this doesn’t make sense at this time.”

City councillor Ken Popove says that Chilliwack will share the results of its agriculture area plan with Mullinix’s research team.

Mullinix’s regional food security project is an offshoot of a study his team completed in Surrey a few years ago, where they found that approximately 15% of Surrey’s agricultural land reserve is underutilized. If used more efficiently, this land had the potential to double Surrey’s agricultural revenue, and create hundreds of jobs.

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