An Environmental Scan of City-Region Food Policy Levers for St. John's, NL

Lay Summary 

The aim of this project is to identify existing and potential policy levers to create healthier and more enabling food environments for the city-region of St. John’s, NL. Through an environmental scan and policy analysis, and consulting with key stakeholders in the food and health sectors, we will identify where food currently ‘fits’ into formal mandates and explore where improved access to healthier foods could be operationalized through enabling interpretations of other municipal and provincial policies.

We are especially interested in looking at policy pathways for small food retail and food entrepreneurship, and how this can support a healthier, more sustainable, and vibrant regional food system. To that end we will focus on the perspective of the retailer or entrepreneur in navigating municipal policy through cases of three business models: smaller-scale grocery retailing; small restaurants; and producer direct marketing with a value-added product component.

The significance of this research is that most contemporary policies that govern food in city-regions are not explicitly health-promoting by design. Moreover, policies often have unintended consequences for a variety of stakeholders--both positive and negative. Researchers and decision makers in city-regions around the world have increasingly taken a new look at what food, and supportive food environments, can offer for community wellbeing and prosperity, from ecological sustainability, to local economic development, to improved individual and population health.

The city-region of St. John’s is an important example for food policy and food environments research in Canada and in North America. This study will highlight the unique policy challenges and opportunities for smaller urban communities. It will also build upon the evidence base on transferability of innovations and interventions from larger municipal centres.

There is a growing momentum in St. John’s city-region and in Newfoundland more broadly, to take action using food to help envision and plan healthier communities. Working through our partnership with the Food Security Network, this research will inform the work of several community initiatives, including the new St. John’s Food Policy Council, the implementation of the St. John’s Roadmap 2021, and the ongoing activities of the Building Healthy Communities Collaborative.

[Food policy is the set of collective decisions and actions that define who eats what, when, and how. This study is the inaugural project of the Food Policy Lab at MUN led by Dr. Catherine L. Mah.]

See the full report here.

The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development
Community Health and Humanities
Harris Centre Applied Research Fund
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Health Promotion
Municipal Development
Regional Economic Development
Industry Sectors 
Local, Municipal and Regional Public Administration
Food and Beverage Stores
Start date 
1 Jul 2014
End date 
30 Jun 2015