The RDCK is investing in an inventory to help locals find regional food suppliers, which can be accessed in case of emergency. Photo: Mike Thomas

The RDCK is investing in an inventory to help locals find regional food suppliers, which can be accessed in case of emergency. Photo: Mike Thomas

Inventory in West Kootenay to bolster food security plans

The inventory will help businesses find local suppliers

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

The regional government is going to put up about $2,000 for an inventory of food sources, suppliers and supporters in the West Kootenay.

The inventory is one of the recommendations in the Regional Food Security Action Plan, which was completed in July 2021 by the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council and funded by the regional district.

“The action plan was essentially motivated by the pandemic but driven by the larger understanding that there are all kinds of reasons our food supply chains can be vulnerable over time, and that it would be wise in the face of climate change and any other things that come our way to have a kind of action plan,” says Abra Brynne, executive director of the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council.

“So that when things go sideways, we have the ability to take care of ourselves to the greatest degree possible.”

The RDCK board approved the funding for the food assets inventory at its December meeting. Brynne says some general project planning has been done, and collection of information should begin in earnest this spring.

“The inventory will certainly include the farms and the primary producers, that’s fundamental, but up and down the supply chain it’s important to understand what we have in terms of distribution, storage, aggregation and processing,” says Brynne, “and related services … do we still have people who can provide services like ploughing fields, installing fences, or people who provide guidance with issues with pests, or veterinarians? Those are all parts of a food system asset map.”

She added that more intangible resources will also be collected for the asset map – the social assets, knowledge keepers and cultural understandings.

“Those are all part of what we will be exploring in terms of building out the picture of what we have here and how we can leverage it to the greatest degree possible,” she says.

While praising the local government for its proactive efforts to improve food security in the region and ensure residents have access to emergency food resources, she says we still have “a hell of a long way” to go before the region can consider itself food secure. But she says we’ve moved in the right direction.

“We’ve kind of adapted – the initial wake-up call of the pandemic was important, but with 2021 and the climate impacts of the heat dome, and flooding, and now the crazy snow, those have really driven home and focused the attention more on the food system’s vulnerabilities,” she says.

Brynne says the need for a shift to more secure food sources became very apparent when floods cut off the Lower Mainland from the rest of the province in November – and store shelves in the Kootenays started to go bare of meat and veggies.

She says the businesses in the region that already had a strong commitment to working with local food suppliers, like the Kootenay Co-op, were in a good position to keep their shelves stocked.

And that’s why the food inventory approved by the RDCK board is important, Brynne feels.

“This will just make that journey a lot easier for those other businesses who want to access more local supply.”