Rob Matheson’s response:
Thank you for these questions they are indeed important and a priority for myself as well. Food security is essential for our community, one of the many reasons that I was such a big supporter of our local Prison Farms, and will now work towards they're restoration.
Please see the answers to your questions below each one with an A)
If you have anything further, please let me know. Thank you for your engagement and participation in this very important election!
Q 1. Kingston General Hospital trucks pre-cooked meals in from Ottawa for its patients. At the same time, City Council has decided that Kingston residents must support the hospital through our taxes.
**Do you think Kingston needs a food procurement policy that makes sense? A local food procurement policy? How can City Hall work to make sure that our institutions - small and large – pay more than lip-service to sustainable local food?*
A) Yes I believe we do need a local food procurement policy. In fact the municipality has been heading that direction with our own facilities, and I commit to working with our local partners such as KGH and others to promote the same for them. Especially as they were all a part of developing our collective vision of becoming Canada's most sustainable City through our local ICSP process facilitated by FOCUS Kingston.
a) There is a growing population in Kingston of, low-income and marginalized people who can’t afford to eat, Let alone eat healthy, fresh, local food. Food banks and meal programs tell us that demand just keeps on rising despite generous charitable support throughout our community.
b) At the same time, Kingston area farmers have trouble making a living growing food. Many need off-farm work just to get by.
** What specific policies can City Hall come up with that would help both groups? *
A) What we need first before policies are set is a Local Food Sustainability & Security working group to be set up of local stakeholders and interested citizens to begin formulating a strategy around these key issues. Developing a policy surrounding local food procurement will certainly help local farmers, however there is much more to the puzzle than that one piece. We need to develop overarching and integrated approached to deal with this particular issue.
* How big an issue should food security be for City Hall? And Should City Hall allocate financial resources to support organizations dedicated to community food security? *
A) Food Security similar to Affordable housing should be a very big issue for City Hall. It is definitely something that I care passionately about. When climate change is impacting our arable land available to the extent it is around the world, we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best in this regard. Hence the need to develop a working group to come up with policy and a strategy to prepare our community for the years ahead.
*Q 3* One way to promote food security and a sustainable food system is for a city like Kingston to start an official Food Policy Council. It would come up with on-the-ground programs for equitable food access, nutrition, community development and environmental health, and would help to inform municipal policies around issues such as those we’ve been discussing here today.
**What do you think of this idea? Would you commit to working with Council and the community to implementing a food policy council for kingston?*
A) LOL I love this idea in fact this is what I envision within the Working Group that I have been espousing in the first few questions posed as a way forward. It is imperative that we plan our local food strategy so that healthy food is available to our citizens of all socio economic means, and in case of any eventuality.
*Q4*. Community Gardens and other forms of Urban Agriculture have been shown to improve eating habits, and build community cohesion in neighbourhoods , supporting more people in growing some of their own food.
Kingston has taken some significant steps forward in the past year or so with a new Community Gardens Policy and so on, but still our Urban Agriculture efforts lag far behind similarly sized cities in Ontario.
**Can you identify 3 Kingston locations that could be considered for developing community gardens? *
A) Personally I would like to see more rooftop gardens made available for apartment dwellers to be able to enjoy this experience. Other locations could also include any land that is not currently being used that is either city or privately owned. Specifically we could look at cleaning up some of the brownfields around the city and putting in community gardens.
*Q5. Would you support a bylaw change to allow backyard hens? Why? Why not? *
A) Yes I would support such a change. Again this is part of our local food security, and something that deserves investigation and consideration for our community. Having grown up in different parts of the world where this practice is the norm, I know first hand that it can work. What will be required is education of our citizens in regards to the facts not fears behind the issue. I forsee starting with a trial based on other municipalities that have gone this route in North America, and ensuring the regulations are proper and in place to ensure health, safety etc requirements are met.