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Vancouver Food Strategy: Building just and sustainable food systems

Farmers market shopper and vendors

The Vancouver Food Strategy is the City's powerful new tool for helping us meet our social, environmental, economic, and health goals.

It is a plan to create a just and sustainable food system for the city. It builds on years of food systems initiatives and grassroots community development, considering all aspects of the food system, from seed to table to compost heap and back again.

We all have a stake in our food system, whether it is:

  • Having more opportunities to grow our own food
  • Having a local food market within walking or cycling distance
  • Helping improve access to affordable food
  • Participating in community composting programs
  • Taking part in community food celebrations

Read about this initiative in depth

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Progress with this initiative

Strategy approved

January 30, 2013 – Council approves the Vancouver Food Strategy.

November 14, 2012 – Staff presented an update on the food strategy to Council.

Year-long public consultation completed

Summer 2011 to spring 2012 – Staff worked with the Vancouver Food Policy Council on a public engagement process under the slogan, "Talk food with us". More than 2,200 people took part. Feedback was gathered through roundtable discussions, storytelling-themed public events, health and education fairs, targeted outreach to ethno-cultural communities, and social media.

Why do we need a food strategy?

The ways that we produce, access, prepare, eat, and dispose of food is directly linked to the sustainability of our city, and the vibrancy of our neighbourhoods.

Currently, there is unequal food access and distribution between neighbourhoods. Unifying food policies into a strategy will:

  • Integrate individual policies into a more coordinated approach
  • Help the City fully address Vancouver's food challenges
  • Align food system goals within broader City plans and processes

Making nutritious and locally-produced food easily accessible is a hallmark of an inclusive community. A vital food system needs strong links between food policy, planning, and on-the-ground activities.


The Vancouver Food Charter, adopted by Council in February 2007, presents a vision for a food system that benefits our community and the environment.

The City of Vancouver is committed to a just and sustainable food system that:

  • Contributes to the economic, ecological, and social well-being of our city and region
  • Encourages personal, business, and government food practices that foster local production and protect our natural and human resources
  • Recognizes access to safe, sufficient, culturally appropriate and nutritious food as a basic human right for all Vancouver residents
  • Reflects the dialogue between the community, government, and all sectors of the food system
  • Celebrates Vancouver’s multicultural food traditions


The Vancouver Food Charter identifies five key principles of a just and sustainable food system:

  1. Community economic development - Locally based food systems enhance Vancouver’s economy. Greater reliance on local food systems strengthens our local and regional economies, creates employment, and increases food security.
  2. Ecological health - A whole-system approach to food protects our natural resources, reduces and redirects food waste, and contributes to the environmental stability and well-being of our local, regional, and global communities.
  3. Social justice - Food is a basic human right. All residents need accessible, affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food.
  4. Collaboration and participation - Sustainable food systems encourage civic engagement, promote responsibility, and strengthen communities.
  5. Celebration - Sharing food is a fundamental human experience. Food brings people together in celebrations of community and diversity.

What is a food system?

A healthy food system is one in which food production, distribution, and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social, and nutritional health of a place.

Elements of a food system

  • Production - Farming and gardening practices that produce raw foods (fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy), including urban agriculture initiatives (community gardens, green roofs, school food plots) 
  • Processing - Transforming food from its raw state (canning, preserving, extracting, refining) 
  • Distribution - Moving food from the farm to the market, and from the market to the table 
  • Access - The ability to obtain healthy and nutritious foods from grocery stores and markets, including emergency food programs, meal programs, food banks, and buying clubs
  • Consumption - The full range of activities around eating, from sharing a snack, to dining out, to participating in cultural food celebrations 
  • Waste management - The ways that the City and its residents deal with the remains of food — the waste and compostable, packaging, sewage, and pollution produced by the food system

To create a just and sustainable food system, we can:

  • Be leaders in municipal and regional food-related policies and programs
  • Support regional farmers and food producers
  • Expand urban agriculture and food recovery opportunities
  • Promote composting and the preservation of healthy soil
  • Encourage humane treatment of animals raised for food
  • Support sustainable agriculture and preserve farm land resources
  • Improve access to healthy and affordable foods
  • Increase the health of all members of our city
  • Talk together and teach each other about food
  • Celebrate our city’s diverse food cultures

Why is the City involved?

Council can support and improve Vancouver's food system through many activities, including:

  • Zoning or bylaw changes
  • Updating land regulation policies
  • Grant programs
  • Public outreach
  • Partnerships with other levels of government and community organizations

Dozens of local governments in Canada and the United States, including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Edmonton and Toronto, have developed food strategies.

Involving the community

Vancouver has a strong history of community involvement and activism on food system issues. The evolution of the City's food policy has depended on strong stakeholder partnerships at every step in the process.

During our public consultation phases, over 2,200 individuals contributed ideas to the food strategy.

Consultation principles

  1. Engage ethno-culturally diverse communities
  2. Engage socio-economically diverse, age-diverse, and harder-to-each communities through storytelling
  3. Emphasize collaboration and partnerships
  4. Create tools and resources that can be used beyond the consultation process

Priority action areas

The actions of this strategy fit into five priority areas:

  • Food production
  • Food processing and distribution
  • Food access
  • Resident empowerment 
  • Food waste management  

Work leading up to this plan

In 2003, Council called for a just and sustainable food system, and created the Vancouver Food Policy Council. Since then, Vancouver's food policies and programs have taken root and flourished.

Vancouver City Council and the Vancouver Park Board have worked together to set food policies. 

Individual policies, programs, and grants

The biggest milestones since 2003 include:

  • Guidelines for urban beekeeping (2005)
  • Vancouver Food Charter (2007)
  • Urban agriculture design guidelines for the private realm (2009)
  • Greenest City grants in support of urban agriculture (2009-2011)
  • Grants to support neighbourhood food networks (2009-2012)
  • 2010 Garden Plots by 2010 Initiative (2010)
  • Guidelines for keeping backyard hens (2010)
  • Food scraps collection program (2010)
  • Intermit Farmers Market policy (2010)
  • Street food program expansion (2010-2012)
  • Greenest City Action Plan Local Food Area (2011)
  • Grant to support urban farming (2011)

The call for a coordinated strategy

Both the Vancouver Food Charter and the Greenest City Action Plan call for a coordinated food strategy.

Goal No. 10 of the Greenest City Action Plan calls for Vancouver to become a global leader in urban food systems. The overall local food target is to increase city and neighbourhood food assets — community gardens, urban farms, farmers markets, food processing infrastructure, community composting facilities, neighbourhood food networks — by 50% by 2020.

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What feeds us: Vancouver Food Strategy

Read the Vancouver Food Strategy, and learn how Vancouver is building a healthy, accessible, sustainable food system.

Download the pamphlet

Download the strategy

News from the Vancouver Food Policy Council


The Vancouver Food Policy Council is a citizen committee working to help improve food sustainability in the city.

Visit their blog to learn about their latest work.

Read the blog

Goals and priority actions