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HomeCanadian NewsDreessen: Ottawa cannot construct '15-minute neighbourhoods' with out guaranteeing entry to wholesome,...

Dreessen: Ottawa cannot construct ’15-minute neighbourhoods’ with out guaranteeing entry to wholesome, reasonably priced meals


As soon as a neighbourhood is occupied by a sure variety of folks, town needs to be liable for seeing {that a} grocery retailer is current that meets the neighborhood’s wants.

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Ottawa’s new Official Plan emphasizes the necessity to develop 15-minute neighbourhoods all through town. However what’s a 15-minute neighbourhood and why is that this essential?

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A 15-minute neighbourhood is strictly what its title implies; it’s a neighbourhood that permits its residents to have entry to their fundamental every day wants inside a 15-minute stroll from their houses. Think about getting access to quite a lot of companies, parks, faculties, public and lively transit, and basic groceries all situated quarter-hour away out of your residence. The advantages are just too lengthy to listing.

Sadly, the success of those neighbourhoods is straight tied to what are known as” meals deserts.” An incapacity to simply entry wholesome and reasonably priced meals plagues many areas of Ottawa and makes 15-minute neighbourhoods unimaginable to attain.

Meals deserts don’t solely happen in low-income neighbourhoods, the place the variety of fast-food chains usually exceeds wholesome meals choices. As federal analysis continues to evolve, we now have discovered that revenue shouldn’t be the one contributing issue. All through Canada and the US, meals deserts are additionally a consequence of poor metropolis planning.

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As soon as a neighbourhood is developed or occupied by a sure variety of folks, town ought to have a duty to make sure that a grocery retailer is current that meets the neighborhood’s wants. Whether or not an space is occupied by low-, middle-, or high-income earners is irrelevant and mustn’t decide entry to wholesome, reasonably priced meals.

Can governments remove meals deserts when massive grocers and mom-and-pop meals retailers are all privately owned? It could be troublesome, but it surely’s not unimaginable. The federal government can, for example, provide incentives for the event of small retailers and grocery shops to be in-built meals desert areas. It will possibly enhance public transit to wholesome and reasonably priced meals choices. The city of Baldwin, Florida, took issues into its personal palms and constructed government-operated grocery shops.

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There are alternatives, some extra lifelike and attainable than others, however all needs to be thought-about to assist finish meals deserts and efficiently create 15-minute neighbourhoods.

Residents of Ottawa’s Little Italy neighborhood know all too nicely what it’s like not having quick access to a grocery retailer. For greater than 15 years, Little Italy has been categorised as a meals desert, with occupants counting on smaller specialty meals retailers to satisfy their every day wants. The COVID-19 pandemic, nevertheless, meant Sala San Marco couldn’t host massive banquets; the house owners transformed the area right into a full-service grocery retailer, saving their enterprise whereas persevering with to serve their neighborhood.

On the different finish of the spectrum, residents of the Carlington space reside inside quarter-hour of a big grocery retailer, however strolling there poses security dangers. To get to the Meals Fundamentals on the Hampton Park Plaza, residents should cross the intersection at Carling and Freeway 417, one among the worst within the metropolis. This signifies that merely creating 15-minute neighbourhoods with a grocery retailer isn’t sufficient; the realm should be walkable and accessible.

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Everybody deserves equal entry to wholesome, reasonably priced meals. Sadly, COVID-19 has made this tougher by additional widening the hole between the haves and the have-nots. That’s the reason now could be the time to behave.

A gradual phasing in of 15-minute neighbourhoods over time to come back is likely to be nice, however current meals deserts in Ottawa should be resolved now. We should begin to consider meals as greater than a commodity to be traded.

Like housing, entry to reasonably priced, wholesome, fundamental groceries needs to be a human proper. We’ll by no means obtain the equitable metropolis we aspire to if we don’t make it a precedence to make sure everybody has entry to wholesome and reasonably priced meals inside their neighborhood.

Toon Dreessen is an architect and president of Ottawa-based Architects DCA and is previous president of the Ontario Affiliation of Architects.

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