Food and Drink 

Who's minding the food store?

This week Whistler is awash with civic leaders as some 1,500 delegates gather for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

As elected officials and senior staff from B.C.'s municipalities, regional districts and regional hospital districts - plus a sprinkling of provincial politicians - enjoy the good food and libations around town in between sessions, remember that whether they work at the local, provincial or federal level, it's government officials who are minding the food store.

Given they make some pretty important decisions regarding what you and I eat and drink, you couldn't ask for a better reason why it's good - very, very good - to be politically aware and engaged.

Policies impact everything from how much detail is in food labels to whether we can buy food at a farmers' market or find GMO products on our grocery shelves. And policy makers need to hear from us when it comes to shaping those policies.

Here are some examples. In each case, you don't have to be some helpless, hapless victim unless you want to be.

Engagement and influence in policy-making about food supply, and beyond, is more than possible, it's crucial in a democracy. If we aren't engaged in governing ourselves, we get what we deserve - a blah life of passivity spent eternally whinging about somebody else's self-interest and agenda. In short, a world that isn't ours.


Don't chicken out now

After a friend of mine moved from the Lower Mainland to Victoria years ago, she said she was so happy to live in such a civilized place, one where you could have chickens in your own backyard.

I think she hadn't yet discovered that Victoria still uncivilly dumps its raw sewage into the ocean. But it has never banned chickens within municipal boundaries.

Proper waste disposal aside, my friend and her partner were thrilled they could raise their own chickens for eggs, meat and cheap entertainment, and jumped right in with some Rhode Island Reds.

New Westminster, Burnaby, Gibsons and, more recently, Vancouver now allow residents to raise chickens in their backyards largely because people lobbied for it.

This year's PNE featured an exhibit on raising your own backyard chickens. In fact, it's getting to be quite the trend, with local groups hosting workshops on everything from how to build a proper coop to what kind of chickens to buy.

One such organization is Farm Folk City Folk ( ), a non-profit society that's been an excellent resource since the early 1990s for "cultivating" local, sustainable food supplies. Besides the chicken-raising workshops they hold, they're a good source for legal info, including a list of B.C. municipalities and their bylaws on raising small animals in your backyard.


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