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While drawing up a food strategy for Dublin city, council staff working with its Climate Action Team took a closer look at what kinds of food businesses serve six neighbourhoods.
Overall, affluent areas had more diverse food retailers and food-service businesses, says the draft “Edible Dublin: Food Strategy”. But disadvantaged areas had more takeaways, it says.
That, at least, was the finding when comparing the less well-off Cherry Orchard and Crumlin-Drimnagh areas to wealthier Rathmines and Pembroke West. East Wall and Phibsboro came middle of this bunch for takeaway count.
Dublin City Council’s new draft food strategy wants to tackle inequalities like this around access to healthy and affordable food, while also addressing the impacts of climate change on the city’s food systems, it says.
All residents should have access to healthy food within a 15-minute walk, cycle or journey by public transport by 2030, the strategy says.
On Monday, the council launched a public consultation on the draft, which runs until 19 June.
Sabrina Dekker, the council’s climate action coordinator, said the strategy is still a work in progress so it’s important people weigh in.
“It’s where we’re looking,” she says, of the draft document. “It is really about health and well-being.”
What to Do
Among the concrete ideas in the strategy is for the council to work with the HSE and other agencies to make sure all people have access to a community-learning kitchen to do community cooking programmes.
That includes setting up a working group to find long-term funding options and physical places to set these up in areas of deprivation, it says.
Dekker says that the team is conscious they have to have projects that work together. “You can teach someone to cook, but if they don’t have access to ingredients, it won’t work.”
The strategy also suggests introducing seed and seedling libraries in communities. And, expanding the availability of community gardens and farms.
Given that Dublin City Council is responsible for providing social homes, the strategy suggests that the council roll out pilot projects that support growing food in social-housing complexes.
Residents in Oliver Bond have already been calling for more support for the community garden that they have cultivated at their south inner-city complex.
Dublin Community Growers, a citywide group, has also been asking for a single point person within the council to work with local communities on allotment and garden projects.
But they were told there wasn’t the money for that, said John O’Donoghue, a member of the Dublin Community Growers Committee, last month.
Dekker says the details of pilots to support growing food in social-housing complexes are to be determined. “That isn’t quite worked out.”
Community input will be key for that, she says.
But one idea, says Dekker, is to see if the council can, when it does retrofits, also put in sustainable urban drainage projects like the boxes with rain gardens trialled in Stoneybatter, which residents could then plant with vegetables.
The draft strategy also notes the importance of moving away from current food-supply models.
Initiatives to support that include workshops to look at opportunities along the supply chain to reduce waste and improve biodiversity.
And also, by doing things like supporting local social enterprises like the Spade Enterprise Centre with its kitchens, which support local food businesses and can focus on using Irish produce.
The strategy also includes supporting social enterprises that improve the access of vulnerable populations to nutritious food, while reducing food waste.
In Cherry Orchard – identified in the strategy as having an outsized serving of takeaways and fewer other diverse food outlets – the council has been criticised for its focus on housing above the other kinds of social infrastructure needed to create a thriving neighbourhood.
Dekker says she is conscious of the role that planning has to play in this. And that their projects need to be community-led, she says.
“The challenge we face is that we need communities to ask for this. Communities need to say, ‘We want this’ as well,” she said.
Dekker says that she expects the initiatives in the food strategy will be partly funded through the Climate Action Plan.
And potentially, partly through funding streams that they will work out thanks to the council’s involvement in the European Union project 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities, she says.
“I would hope we can do that,” says Dekker. “We do need to identify more funding.”