Vision Vancouver park board vice-chair Aaron Jasper is bringing a motion to the park board tonight recommending the creation of a task force to create policy, and identify opportunities, for food-related initiatives.
Jasper told me that with more than 200 parks and 24 community centres across the city it makes sense the park board take the lead to make healthy food accessible to everyone through the Local Food Assets Task Force. A food "asset" can include a community kitchen, farmers market or urban farm.
Jasper says the initiative could also include an increase in community gardens, the planting of more orchards and offering programming about food at park board facilities.
"The park board is aware of its mandate and has no intention of turning its back on soccer fields," says Jasper. "This would be about planting an orchard along the side of a soccer field."
Jasper notes there are many groups across the city, such as Village Vancouver and the Westside Food Collaborative, offering workshops about growing food, as well as organizing neighbourhood pot-luck events and hosting pocket farmers markets. Jasper wants the park board to collaborate with those smaller groups, as well as larger organizations like Vancouver Farmers Markets, to create a single resource through which residents can find information about anything to do with growing, processing and selling food in the city.
"A lot of those groups are operating on shoe-string budgets," says Jasper. "So it would make sense to provide a home for some of them in exchange for their knowledge."
Jasper suggests the groups could offer workshops such as composting, canning, and fruit and vegetable growing through courses offered at community centres.
He adds growing food is good for the environment, which would make the task force a natural complement to the city's Greenest City Action Plan, which has a goal of making Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020. The Action Plan wants to increase food assets in the city by 50 per cent by 2020 from 2010 levels. If approved, the task force will be made up of two park board commissioners, park board staff, city staff and representatives from Neighbourhood Food Networks and other community groups as required.
The park board will decide tonight whether to allow the Vancouver Racquet Club to serve liquor on its enclosed outdoor patio.
The private club, located at 4867 Ontario St. next to Hillcrest Park, has been in operation since 1953 on park board land, but at no cost to the park board or city. The club includes badminton and squash courts as well as a fitness area, banquet and meeting rooms and a lounge for members and visitors. The banquet, meeting and lounge areas include a total of 102 seats under a "liquor primary" licence, which means minors are not allowed and food doesn't have to be served; 50 seats in a "food primary" area, which allows minors; as well as a seating area for 150 with a "lounge" designation that allows the banquet capacity to increase if necessary. The proposed change wouldn't see an increase in seating capacity, but would allow some seats to be placed outside during nice weather. That would work out to between 12 to 20 seats on the patio at a time.