Halifax regional council approved two big plans on Tuesday, aiming to improve food security and public safety.
First was Part A of “JustFOOD: Action Plan for the Halifax Region,” the result of more than a decade of work by the Halifax Food Policy Alliance, working with HRM and the public.
The report makes 56 recommendations “for positive food system transformation,” planner Leticia Smillie wrote in the summary for council.
The strategy is badly needed. Household food insecurity in HRM is 18.6% — higher than the provincial and national averages and among the highest in Canada. And it’s getting worse, with the cost of food in Nova Scotia rising 11% in 2022.
There are 10 actions for HRM in the first year. Those include establishing and funding a food policy council; using municipal facilities to offer food programs, grow food, and support public food infrastructure; and establishing a community garden plot program.
Part B of the plan will come next year, with more detail on how to actually implement the plan. That second half will also carry the financial details, with no cost associated with council’s approval in principle of Part A.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the motion to approve the plan. It also directed Mayor Mike Savage “to make the Halifax Regional Municipality a signatory to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.” That pact is “an international agreement on urban food policies signed by over 200 cities from all over the world.”
Public safety strategy price tag lowered
Councillors also approved a renewed Public Safety Strategy on Tuesday.
Public safety advisor Amy Siciliano presented the strategy to council. She said the municipality has a responsibility to develop and maintain safe communities. It can do this in three ways, she said: upstream (“protective factors that build resilience”); midstream (“reducing risk factors”); or downstream (policing).
The strategy is about upstream work. It carries 14 recommendations grouped in three action areas: “Community-led Public Safety;” a “Broader Spectrum of Responses to Social Issues and Harms;” and “A Centre of Responsibility (CoR) for Collective Impact.”
Those include enhanced community response teams, the creation of a community crisis response service, and the work already underway to create a sobering centre.
To carry out the work, Siciliano wants to hire for 15 new positions. Councillors voted in January to consider spending $482,800 in 2023-2024 on 11 of those positions.
Tuesday’s report revised that number down to $361,100.
Chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole told councillors that management was able to realign funding from vacant positions in other departments to lower the figure.
It’s up for consideration during the budget adjustment list debate at the end of March.