JustFood Action Plan budget approved in principle by council

Plan would set up food council, allow for grants to community groups

2 min read
caption A community fridge on Carlton Street in Halifax. Community fridges are part of local efforts to combat food insecurity.
Aidan Rawding

Organizers of a food security project in the region hope to move forward with their $856,000 plan to support HRM in addressing food insecurity and helping residents access healthy and sustainable food. 

The JustFood Action Plan asked for $522,000 more from the municipality to continue its plan through working groups and existing initiatives in the community, making its pitch at Tuesday’s regional council meeting.

“Sadly, in the relatively short time since I was before you last for adoption of part A, conditions for our residents have worsened, and the rationale has strengthened for why immediate and co-ordinated effort is needed,” said Leticia Smillie, project manager for the JustFood Action Plan. 

Regional council voted Tuesday to approve the plan and the annual budget request in principle. This could be considered in the city’s 2024-2025 budget, if approved by the budget committee. 

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It was brought up separately because the strategy will take several years.

The first part of JustFood’s plan was approved in March 2023. Two of its goals are to improve food security and reduce food inequities in the region.

A high priority for JustFood in 2024-25 is establishing a food council to increase community participation and oversee its efforts to improve the region’s food system. This council would collaborate with existing groups with the same goals.

Other plans would provide grant money to programs and groups that work toward strengthening food security.

Gardening and composting programs in city spaces, along with greenhouses, are among other options, said Smillie.

Councillors wondered what level of government is suited to address food insecurity in HRM.

Who’s responsible?

Coun. Shawn Cleary (District 9) said that fixing the food system is beyond the scope of the municipal government. This and the city’s strained budget, said Cleary, make it “tough to consider hiring so many municipal and municipality-supported full-time equivalent positions.”

Coun. Cathy Deagle Gammon (District 1) said the municipality would be making a “multi-year commitment” and its growth would go beyond “what is solely municipal.”

Gammon asked whether positions could be split between the provincial and municipal governments. 

“There isn’t any expectation that the municipality would be the major funder,” said Smillie. “It’s a small pot of money and effort from the municipality that’s creating the seed for these major projects that are needed, but then are going to others for funding.”

Coun. Kathryn Morse (District 10) reminded council this past fall that Food Banks Canada gave Nova Scotia an ‘F’ on its poverty report card, its lowest grade of all the provinces.

“Anything we can do to strengthen our local food system, I think, is really valuable,” said Morse.

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