13. City of Vancouver – Measuring Urban Food Growing Sites







Project Title

Evaluating policy to support food assets through urban development

Organization Name

City of Vancouver – Social Policy Division (Food Policy Team)


Urban agriculture, urban planning, urban food systems, food asset mapping, sustainability, food policy, policy evaluation, zoning bylaws, accessibility, community amenity contributions

Related Course Concepts

Food justice, Food security

Organization Information

Organization Name

City of Vancouver – Social Policy Division (Food Policy Team)

Mission and Vision of Organization

City of Vancouver’s Mission: Create a great city of communities that cares about our people, our environment, and our opportunities to live, work, and prosper.

Guiding Principles + Values

Food policy at the City of Vancouver is guided by the Vancouver Food Charter, which commits the City of Vancouver to a just and sustainable food system that:

• contributes to the economic, ecological, and social well-being of our city and region;

• encourages personal, business and government food practices that foster local production and protect our natural and human resources;

• recognizes access to safe, sufficient, culturally appropriate and nutritious food as a basic human right for all Vancouver residents;

• reflects the dialogue between the community, government, and all sectors of the food system;

• celebrates Vancouver’s multicultural food traditions.

Contact Information

  • Primary Contact Person(s): Caitlin Dorward (Social Planner)
  • Email: caitlin.dorward@vancouver.ca
  • Phone: 604-873-7764
  • Address: 5th Floor, Woodwards Building, 111 West Hastings St.
  • Website: Food and Sustainable Food Systems

Preferred Method of Contact

  • Best method(s) to contact: Email
  • Best day(s) to contact: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, On email/phone during business hours 8:30 - 5
  • Best time(s) to contact: Mornings, Afternoons

Project Description

In the City of Vancouver, like other urban areas, development and densification in our city is often facilitated through the rezoning of properties. A rezoning is a change to the zoning bylaw which allows a new form of development to take place on a property. Typically, a rezoning will allow for larger, more dense, forms of development (for example, allow replacing a single detached home with a townhome development or a condominium).

In 2008, the City of Vancouver adopted a policy which established requirements that larger rezoned sites must achieve high sustainability standards across numerous topic areas including sustainable food systems. Larger sites are those over 8,000m2 or containing over 45,000m2 of new development floor area.

Under the current iteration of the policy, these “large site rezonings” must contribute to increasing city and neighbourhood food assets (as outlined in the Vancouver Food Strategy) by integrating three “food assets” into the new development. Food assets are defined as resources, facilities, services, and spaces that are available to residents of the city that enable a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. Food asset options that may be included in the development include: community gardens, urban farm, edible landscaping, community kitchen, on-site organics management, and more.

In this project, students will review the food assets proposed and provided through large site rezonings, and provide a preliminary assessment of their impact. Specific steps include:

  • Review previous rezoning reports (provided by the project partner) and prepare an inventory of food assets proposed in each.
  • Analyze the frequency with which each food asset option has been selected, and prepare maps indicating the spatial distribution of the food assets across the City.
  • Select (in consultation with the project partner) a suggested minimum of 6 sites to conduct a site visit to (site visit will be to the external/publicly accessible portion of the property only).
  • Visit the sites and document observations about the food assets present on the publicly accessible portion of the property.
  • Develop a draft survey that the City could, in future, administer to occupants of existing large sites to gauge the extent to which the food assets provided are programmed or utilized.
  • Provide a group/personal reflection on the perceived impact of the food assets that have been provided, the value of them to our city's food system, and recommendations of food asset options that, if required on future large sites, could make even bigger contributions to a just and sustainable food system

What challenge or issue does the project aim to address?

Sensitively planned development can contribute to vibrant urban food systems. However, if food system elements are not adequately considered in the development process, urban development has the potential to displace existing food assets and put additional strain on those that remain. Due to forces of gentrification, the negative outcomes of this process often disproportionately impact equity seeking populations and those already experiencing food insecurity. Within this context, the Sustainable Large Sites Rezoning Policy is a potentially powerful tool to support the development of our urban food system, and an investigation of its implementation will help us understand if it is “living up” to its potential.

Student Assets and Skills (preferred or required)

  • Interest in urban planning
  • Interest in food policy
  • Basic mapping/GIS skills (optional but preferred)
  • Project management capabilities
  • Access to a camera for documenting site visits
  • Ability to travel to various locations within Vancouver to conduct site visits
  • Experience or interest in qualitative research methods (survey design)

Student Assets and Skills (to be developed through the project)

  • Critical thinking
  • Policy analysis
  • Knowledge about urban planning
  • Qualitative research methods (survey design)

Is a criminal record check required?


Project Location

Various locations in Vancouver

Preferred Days of Week and Hours

No preference for student work hours. Caitlin is available to support students M-F, 8:30-5

Project/Partner Orientation Materials

Students should review these materials prior to the first partner meeting. Suggestion: Divide readings among group members. Each group member should read at least 3 readings. Ensure that at least two group members have read each of the resources before the first partner meeting:


Additional Project/Partner Orientation Materials

The following will be provided at the first community partner meeting:

  • A meeting with project partner and another City staff person in Sustainability Office who are involved with implementation of the Large Site Rezoning Policy (to be confirmed).

Related Community Service Opportunities for Students

Students are welcome to attend Vancouver Food Policy Council (VFPC) meetings as members of the public. If students want to present their findings to the VFPC, they can work with Caitlin to forward this request to the VFPC.

Expected Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

I hope students will learn about...

  • the role of development policies in shaping our urban built environments and their potential to support just and sustainable food systems.

I think students will come to appreciate...

  • how challenging it can be to achieve food system goals via private sector policy/planning interventions.

Through this project, students will develop...

  • an understanding of one mechanism by which municipal governments can plan for a just and sustainable food system.

Organizational Outcomes

Intended Project (Short Term) Outcome

  • Findings from this project will benefit staff at the City of Vancouver by increasing our understanding of the impact that the Sustainable Large Sites policy has had on Vancouver’s food system.

Medium Term Outcomes

If the student project is part of a larger project at your organization, how will the students' work contribute to the goals of this larger project?

  • As a result of this project, City staff may identify opportunities for improvement via changes to the policy’s requirements or changes to how the policy is implemented
  • The project’s findings may prompt a deeper evaluation to consider policy changes

How does the student project contribute to your organization's mission and long-term vision?

  • Supporting policy development and implementation that is aligned with our Food Strategy goals and the vision of Vancouver's Food Charter.
source: https://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:LFS350/Projects/F2019/COV