New Charlottetown food map will connect residents with healthy local food
Map shows where locally produced foods can be accessed, grown, prepared, shared or bought
Charlottetown residents will get their first look at the city's new food asset map next week during a series of online community conversations hosted by the Charlottetown Food Council.
The map is still in a draft form but when it's complete, it will be available online to help residents find everything from rentable commercial kitchens, to emergency food programs, community gardens and farmers markets.
"The Food Council has worked really hard to compile the food-related assets in Charlottetown, so anything relating to the very broad food system that we all exist in," said Katrina Cristall, sustainability officer for the city of Charlottetown.
"It's meant to act as a way to look at the positive parts of the food system, as well as to identify any gaps within that system, and to allow connections between the different assets that we have."
The map features different colourful markers representing different categories within the food system: food retail, food production, community food hubs, emergency food programs and food programs and services.
"What's really important is that it's an interactive tool that people can visualize, and the map serves that purpose really well," Cristall said.
"People can go on and they can select different categories. They can select different city wards or different areas of the city's food charter, and then they can play around with it."
Resource for residents
Cristall said the map will be useful to residents in many ways.
"For example, maybe there's somebody that's looking to buy local produce and they're not quite sure where to get it," Cristall said.
"They could go on the map. They could make the selection for local food producers or local food retailers, and then the map would show them exactly where they need to go."
Cristall said there are a couple of different goals for the online community conversations.
"The map that we currently have is just a prototype. We want to know how it works for people, what they think needs to be changed and what assets that they might know about that the Charlottetown Food Council isn't aware of already," Cristall said.
"The other goal is to just have conversations around the food system and engage people on those topics and hopefully help people to learn something about it as well."
Bernie Plourde, chairperson of the Charlottetown Food Council, said the food asset map will give his group a way to measure progress from year to year.
"Other communities have learned that creating a food system that works, based on an asset map, gives you a proper benchmark to see what is working," Plourde said.
"It's important to identify your resources in your community, and to be able to support those resources, to make your community a little healthier."
Coun. Mitchell Tweel, chair of the city's environment and sustainability committee, said the map is a great project.
"The whole idea of eating locally, it's not something new. If you turn the clock back 40, 50 years ago, we were doing that," Tweel said.
"I think what we've done is we've rediscovered just how important it is not only to support local and eating locally, but just how good the food is in this province."
Lessons from the pandemic
A similar community consultation was underway in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic brought public events to a halt.
Cristall said there have been lessons learned about local food since, that will add to the value of the food asset map.
"I think one thing that COVID and the pandemic have shown us is that our system is fragile and that it's really important to identify the strengths, and the connections in there, and to have a focus on local food, especially on an island," Cristall said.
"COVID has been hard on the food system as a whole on many levels, so this is a really great way to connect people with whatever resource it is that they need."
Cristall said after the community conversations are completed in a couple of weeks, the goal is to launch the food asset map to the public sometime in early 2021.