What would happen if nutrition became a central priority for municipalities, and if we did a global re-thinking of nutritional systems? Continually looking to help Quebec City create better-functioning communities, the organization Vivre en Ville questioned the link between nutrition and the urban landscape in its most recent publication, Nourishing Cities. The man behind the work, Vincent Galarneau, has lived more than 20 years in the borough of Limoilou and has lent himself to imagining what a nourishing neighborhood might look like for us at monlimoilou.com.
For the sake of transparency, I must mention that I worked as an intern with Vincent Galarneau and the team at Vivre en Ville last summer, while researching for this publication. Now, before Nourishing Cities is finally printed, I can do nothing but congratulate their excellent work and hope that the text becomes a source of inspiration for the future!
Not surprisingly, Nourishing Cities puts local food at the forefront of its solutions, but the publication also insists on the diversity of food offered. “There needs to be enough for everyone. People want to encourage healthy food, but are happy enough to have a fast-food place that is open 24 hours a day. These things need to be considered , but above all, we need to work with what we already have,” explains Galarneau, the agriculture and environmental councilor at Vivre en Ville. While re-thinking the food culture of Limoilou, the organization also ordered a report to be done on the matter.
We are All Responsible
According to Vincent Galarneau, the neighborhood already has numerous strengths, including nearby restaurants and commerces, the public market and bike market, food-sharing stores, collective kitchens, fifteen shared gardens, a dozen food drop-off points, and food pantries to respond to the always-pressing need for aid.
On the whole, the area is well-looked after despite an unequal allocation of services, like the difficulty of accessing small grocery stores in Sainte-Odile, Saint-Pascal, and Stadacona. The number of organizations working on food security is also a non-negligible strength. Vincent mentioned the work of the ATI and Craque-Bitume and proceeded to praise Caisse Desjardins of Limoilou’s engagement in the field.
In Quebec, as in other places, the majority of projects are first taken on by public health agencies or community organizations. A fact that, according to Vincent, must change.
“When we talk about nourishment, everyone is implicated. We all consume food, and so we are all responsible. Food is also a good pretext for talking about issues together. Therefore, let’s sit around a good meal and talk about what we need to do and what your dreams are for our neighborhood!”
Everything but the Kitchen Sink
It is nice to dream about a self-sufficient Limouilou, but the author of Nourishing Cities has his feet planted firmly on the ground. He recognizes that with regards to production, Limoilou will always remain dependent on an exterior supply of provisions: “If someone said that it would take us creating more gardens, okay! But if there are vacant lots, they are often contaminated.” In an urban, fairly dense neighborhood, he suggests going beyond traditional spaces and considering the potential of large parks such as Domaine Maizerets. “They can act as a beacon and are open to all,” insists Vincent, although collective gardens are often seen as a semi-privatization of public space.
The community could also invest in gardens on balconies and roofs, following the example of the Rosemont-La Petite Patrie district of Montreal. There, small commerces and even citizens are allowed to have a greenhouse on their roof, on condition that the building can support the weight of such a structure.
Speaking of municipal regulations, Vincent proposes that Limoilou reclaim the right to adopt its own district-specific rules. “Regulations for vegetable patches on building facades was not passed at the city-wide level. However, the authorization for putting greenhouses on roofs originally wasn’t either. Authorization for industrial neighborhoods was voted, then later made discretionary in the districts. Why, therefore, have we not attempted to do the same thing for vegetable patches on facades?” he wonders.
Urban chickens could also obtain Vincent’s favor, but the cities that allow for raising them often impose a minimal surface area or the obtention of a permit. In Quebec, they are tolerated so long as there aren’t any complaints. For Vincent, this merits a debate. And the dreamer is already imagining a pilot-project for a community henhouse, at Patro Roc-Amadour, for example.
Of course, a certain level of urban food production is possible. But the secret to creating a nourishing Limoilou resides, more so, in creating better synergy within the neighborhood and in strengthening the links between the urban and surrounding rural areas.
“We must avoid thinking about this in isolation. The error made by certain urban agriculturists is to think that they can nourish everyone themselves, when there are super-productive lands all around the city.”
The Other Side of Food Production
We cannot talk about viable communities without considering residual organic waste. As much as it would be ideal to reduce the quantities sent to the incinerator, projects based on cogeneration have also been imagined. “Couldn’t that be useful to us for creating a greenhouse complex?” Vincent wonders. There is also another well-known solution left: composting. “We must invest in multiplying community composting sites, both institutional and private, even if the city doesn’t seem to want them, a priori.”
What is your community doing to increase its ability to produce food? What urban agriculture and planning techniques have been most successfully implemented? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.