The council’s draft vision for Dublin over the next six years, the city development plan, has a few words on food, markets and food waste.
But not enough to warrant their own chapter. That’s because there’s a lack of data that could help the council make more concrete plans around food in the city, says Sabrina Dekker, the council’s climate action coordinator.
On 11 January, the council launched a public consultation, asking people to share their experiences of shopping for, cooking, eating, and disposing of food, so it can draw up a food strategy.
Dekker has ideas herself that she hopes will be mirrored in the survey, she says. Those include bringing small markets to train stations, planting food around the city, and making sure neighbourhoods have healthy-eating options.
But “we need people to fill out the survey to get a better sense of what’s going on”, says Dekker. “This is new for us. It’s at the beginning. And we don’t know where it’s gonna go.”
What Is a Food Strategy?
Vancouver’s strategy has goals for more food-friendly neighbourhoods where fresh food and sustainable food disposal are available to all. It also covers supporting food-related jobs.
Inspiration also came from the council’s Eat the Streets events, a food festival** **Dublin City Council ran last year, she says.
People involved in the food industry, from chefs to food growers, were at the helm of Eat the Streets, she says, teaching people about food.
“It’s the stories that are being shared from all different angles of all different areas of food systems, and it binds us and I think that’s what came out in that project,” she says. “And maybe that’s the hope with this.”
“At the end of the day, it’s like food connects people,” says Dekker. “Food is such a social thing.”
If Dublin City Council can work out through its survey what food things are missing from neighbourhoods, it could create broader plans for the city, she says.
“There’s a lot of questions. What’s going on? Where do we go? How do we go about this?” she says.
That’s what the council is hoping for more data on how people get food, cook it, eat it, and dispose of food waste. Without that, it’s hard to find solutions to problems people may be having, or to focus on a particular area, Dekker says.
After the consultation’s closure – which is set for 14 February – the council plans to do focus groups, she says. “With specific groups, so we might focus on women, young people, restaurant owners, food businesses, experts in the space.”
The current draft of the city development plan for 2022 to 2028 has a small section on food retailers and markets, noting how they create jobs and make the city more interesting.
It has some commitments “to promote and facilitate” cafes and restaurants, “to support” emerging “food and beverage clusters” around the city centre, and to support outdoor dining where it doesn’t clash with people being able to get down the street easily.
Overall, the plan commits to encourage markets that support smaller retailers, with nods to the proposed redevelopment of the Victorian wholesale fruit and vegetable market on Mary’s Lane in Smithfield and a regenerated Iveagh Market and the Moore Street Market.
They “have the potential to provide major visitor attractions in the city as well as new local amenities for the communities that they serve”, it says.
Lord Iveagh, Dublin City Council and Martin Keane and related companies, are involved in a confidential mediation process,
A Dublin City Council spokesperson said on Tuesday that it is finalising its tender for a future operator for the Smithfield fruit and veg market. (Some councillors had previously opposed getting a private operator.)
Dekker isn’t sure what the food strategy will look like yet. She’s some ideas already though, she says.
Like small kiosks in train stations where small farmers can sell produce to commuters.
“Imagine Connolly Station, just that bit, and all of a sudden you’ve got somebody selling potatoes, carrots, strawberries, whatever you want, there,” she says. “You could pick up your dinner there, instead of getting a microwave meal.”
Or more pockets of community gardens for people to grow their own food. “When we’re greening the city, it’s not just about tree planting.”
And, with more detailed data on food waste, a proper plan for reducing it, she says.
Says Dekker: “Reducing food waste is the climate action you could take three times a day.”