Growing Cities Face Food Sustainability Questions

James McAra, CEO of the Calgary Food Bank, notes the need to address sustainability issues of bringing food into the city.

Growing Cities Face Food Sustainability Questions

‘Smart thinking and smart policy will allow us to develop the city we want’

James McAra says an example of the community at its best is when the decision came through that Grow Calgary could access transportation and utility corridor land to grow food.

Through the efforts of volunteers, a previously vacant transportation and utility corridor along the Trans-Canada Highway has been transformed into Calgary’s first — and Canada's largest — urban farm.

In 2013, Grow Calgary was given permission from the province to use an 11-acre section of the land near the Canada Olympic Park.

“They grew thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables for the Calgary Food Bank,” says James.

The Grow Calgary produce helps fill the need for fresh vegetables going into its emergency food hampers, which are balanced with Canada’s food guide. From a community perspective on food production, it’s the change in little things that will show what can be accomplished, James says. For example, being able to create a community garden and watering with a hose rather than going through an environmental aquifer restriction request may make a difference in someone deciding to plant a garden.

There is potential for a “different kind of community caring” when people look at their land and know it is okay to grow something, says James.

Addressing sustainability issues of bringing food into a city will need to be looked at, which is something imagineCALGARY is considering, says James.

“Calgary right now is of a size where we can make some significant policy decisions on how we want our city to grow out. We are not a London England, we are not even a Toronto, and we are already grappling some of the issues of density, availability," he says.

“Smart thinking and smart policy will allow us to develop the city we want.”

Through the imagineCALGARY visioning process — which engaged 18,000 Calgarians — and its resulting plan, people can be held accountable to creating the type of city residents want to have, says James.

“I think it’s also underlying the change that Canadians are seeking within their communities — the ability to say, ‘The status quo isn’t working, folks, we need to change radically.’”

“The imagineCALGARY conversation is a cornerstone of that engaging the community to say, ‘what do you want to see.’”

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer:, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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