Calgary Food Action Plan
Emergency food support and resources
For information on where to find emergency food, lower cost food, cooking programs and other community food programs, visit Inform Alberta.
The City of Calgary has programs and services to help Calgarians through the pandemic spread of COVID-19 / Coronavirus. We also partner with many community organizations who offer support. We have compiled a list of resources for those who may need support in accessing food.
If you need support and resources, please reach out to 211 via phone, text or online chat. A Community Resource Specialist can work with you to see what community resources and services are available and work to get you connected with support.
Food Action Plan Contact
Building relationships between local farmers, processors, residents, community leaders, and other food system representatives is key in facilitating the resolution of food system issues and our success.
For questions or input, email Kristi.Peters@calgary.ca.
What the Food Action Plan will do
- Remove barriers and create opportunities to build a sustainable and resilient food system through planning and land use.
- Support and promote local food growth through community gardens and urban agriculture.
- Increase accessibility of healthy food for all Calgarians.
- Prevent food waste through education.
- Support community food programs.
- Conduct research and build community partnerships.
All Calgarians will benefit
Local: Products made, baked, grown, processed and sold in Alberta complement foods from other provinces and countries.
Accessible: All people always have physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and preferences.
Secure: There’s a consistent supply of safe and nutritious food that’s not vulnerable to pressures such as high fuel prices and natural disasters.
Environmentally sustainable: Calgary’s food system helps protect our air, land and water by minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, potable water use, and waste. It also maximizes land use and encourages healthy ecosystems.
Healthy: Food and beverages listed in Canada’s Food Guide are prepared and served in a way that supports national and provincial recommendations for sugar, sodium and fat.
Community development: The food system supports economic opportunities in the community.
Urban hen program
The urban livestock licensing program enables Calgarians to keep backyard hens. The program accepted 100 applicants under a pilot project in 2022. The next application opportunity will be in 2023. For more information on application requirements, please visit urban hen program.
Urban beekeeping program
The City of Calgary provides regulation and licensing for urban beekeeping. This helps address issues and create solutions for bees, beekeepers and neighbours. For more information and application requirements, please visit urban beekeeping and licensing.
Indoor farming services and supports
The City of Calgary recognizes the importance of food security and sustainability. With the ongoing shift to support and buy local, The City wants to make it easier for indoor farming companies to establish their operations in Calgary.
Indoor farming includes raising and producing fruits, vegetables, plants or other agricultural products for sale. It can include growing, raising, culturing or cultivating practices, and activities such as harvesting, storing, sorting, cleaning, processing and the preparation for sale of produce and agricultural products grown in the facility.
Highfield Farm urban agriculture pilot project
Highfield Farm is located on 15-acres in the heart of the industrial community of Manchester. The property was home to the Blackfoot Farmers’ Market until 2013, and remained vacant after the market closed. In partnership with the Compost Council of Canada, this vacant property has been transformed into a vibrant and productive urban farm through soil restoration, food production and community programming.
The farm features organic vegetable plots, beekeeping, a greenhouse and community gathering space, forest trails and a compost production centre. Produce grown will be donated to community agencies and will also be for sale at the Highfield Farm vegetable stand located on the property.
Farm stand program
To help provide more Calgarians with improved access to healthy, locally grown food options, we partnered with local growers to operate pop-up farm stands at five C-train stations. In 2020 the farm stand program expanded from the C-train stations to more than 20 new locations at community hubs. The farm stands operate on a weekly schedule from June – October.
Often, food that could have been eaten ends up in the green cart or food scraps bin because we either buy or cook too much or don’t store it correctly. The best way to reduce this food waste is not to make it at all.
Learn effective ways to avoid good food being thrown away.
Vacant Land/Building Initiative
An urban agriculture pilot program to support and expand the production of locally grown food.
The City of Calgary is committed to building a robust local food system that provides equitable access to healthy foods for all residents; supports Calgary‘s gardeners, farmers and businesses; promotes environmental sustainability; and utilizes vacant space productively.
The Vacant Land/Building initiative connects growers to vacant City-owned land and buildings to support new farm “incubation” opportunities through short-term leases. Through partnerships with growers, this program ensures that farmers and gardeners can produce food, flowers, fiber, and fuel in ways that are environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, while educating Calgarians on opportunities to support and engage in building a stronger local food system.
Food Resilience Program Development
Ensuring an adequate, healthy food supply for all Calgarians requires a strong food system that can adapt to local and global challenges. Natural and non-natural disasters can directly and indirectly affect people and the functioning of food systems. Climate change, high energy prices, increasing world population, urbanization, geopolitical disturbances and other crisis events can disrupt Calgary’s food system functioning. Those communities with the most vulnerabilities are at the greatest risk.
The City of Calgary will work with stakeholders to develop and implement a Food Resilience Plan for Calgary. The purpose of the plan is to ensure Calgary has a well-functioning food system where food is consistently available, accessible (both physically and economically) and acceptable for all Calgarians, before, during and after a disruptive event. The Food Resilience Plan will consider the full food system (food production, processing, distribution, access, consumption and food waste recovery), and the hazards and vulnerabilities that when combined could lead to a food system disruption. This project will focus on capturing data from communities that experience the greatest inequities.
Circular Food Economy Programs
A new series of Circular Food Economy Programs is now being offered by The City of Calgary along with community partners: Elements Society, Green Calgary, and the Calgary Horticultural Society. The programs are free and designed for all Calgarians.
Elements Society empowers youth to show environmental leadership at school, at home, and in the community.
Elements Society offers a science-based program that addresses how food choices impact the health of our planet through fun, hands-on activities
Since 1978, Green Calgary has been an urban environmental charity and leading voice for local environmental action. They are dedicated to healthy homes, communities, and businesses by offering an evolving array of programs and services to support the adoption of practices addressing current and emergent environmental issues.
Green Calgary will bring two food waste programs to Calgary:
Spill the Beans: Unpacking Your Food Waste
The Spill the Beans program offers free workshops to community groups and associations in Calgary, focusing on food waste reduction. It introduces topics to Calgarians such as shopping seasonally, locally produced food, meal planning, cooking, and preserving food.
Food for Thought
Food for Thought is a Calgary food resource that provides resources and self-guided learning around meal planning, residential unused fruit donations, seasonal produce, and gardening. This resource is currently in development and expected to be launched in Fall 2023.
Calgary Horticultural Society
For 115 years, the Calgary Horticultural Society has focused on education, empowerment, and connection for our growing and gardening community. One of their values is to lead in making Calgary a city of gardening excellence.
Seed to Table Program
Seed to Table is a low input growing initiative that goes through each of the steps required in a gardening journey, providing educational talks and workshops about sustainable food growing and gardening. This program aims to strengthen social connections, empower land stewardship, and increase knowledge among participants about how they can become increasingly self-sufficient, save money, and reduce waste on their gardening journey.
These free and low-cost talks and workshops will be held online and in-person.
Where to find local food
We now provide local food producers an opportunity to operate a temporary outside food stand for selling produce on either the parcel where it was grown or on City-owned land with permission.
- If you are interested in operating a pop-up farm stand on City-owned property, please fill out and submit the application form found at Calgary.ca/localfood.
- Current sale locations include Calgary Transit LRT stations, some community associations and City-owned properties.
- It is the farmers’ responsibility to obtain appropriate Food Handling Permits from Alberta Health Services.
Community food growing
Household food production can range from growing herbs and small vegetables inside the house, to planting fruit and vegetables in the ground or in raised beds in front and back yards. Food production in your home can include vertical gardens, balcony gardens, rooftop gardens and greenhouses. A wealth of fresh vegetables can be grown in even the smallest garden plot or containers. The benefits of growing your own herbs and vegetables include:
- Healthy, fresh produce for you and your family.
- Reducing the environmental impact of food transport and storage.
- Connection with nature and raising awareness of local food.
Boulevards are generally located between property lines, are City owned and are usually grass.
Although boulevards are owned by The City, it is the homeowner's responsibility to maintain the boulevard next to their property. Since most boulevards are grass, it may be possible to plant a garden, which the homeowner is responsible for creating and maintaining. In all cases, permission from The City is required.
Community gardens can enhance the health and well-being of neighbourhoods and communities in Calgary. The City values community gardens and supports the creation of new community gardens on public lands, as well as the retention of existing community gardens in the city. We're pleased to support community gardens by working with a variety of community organizations.
Indoor commercial food production
Indoor commercial food production is accommodated in the Industrial and Commercial districts. This activity includes hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, the raising of insects and aquaculture in buildings, structures, and freight containers.
Food production includes fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, flowers, fiber, seeds, nuts, seedlings, herbs, insects and fish. It includes management practices and activities such as cultivation, harvesting, storing, sorting, cleaning and packaging.
Food production does not include products regulated by the Controlled Drug and Substances Act (e.g. cannabis).
Starting a new indoor food production business
Before committing to a space for your business, it’s important to know if The City can approve your request to operate at the desired location. All businesses require land use approval, and a City-issued business licence. Businesses requiring a licence must obtain land use approval prior to a licence being issued.
Note: the Alberta Building Code considers shipping containers to be buildings. Regardless of whether your unit is pre-manufactured or if you converted it yourself, it must meet the following requirements:
- Alberta Building Code
- Factory certification to CSA A277 or CSA A660 standards or combination thereof
- A building permit is required
Units placed inside a warehouse require an interior partitioning Building Permit. Visit Alberta Building Code for commercial building permits for more information.
Food production is permitted in most industrial districts and is a discretionary use in all commercial districts. A change of use may be required depending on your business location.
Please contact the Planning Services Centre for more information.
Food handling permit - Alberta Health Services
If you are packaging your product, you will need a food handling permit.
Alberta Health Services Resources
- Information for Your Business – Food Facilities
- Starting a Food Business in Calgary and Surrounding Areas
Review the Indoor food production and growth business guide to learn about requirements.
Please contact the Planning Services Centre for more information.
Outdoor commercial urban agriculture
Urban Agriculture is where plants are grown outdoors for commercial purposes, on a vacant parcel, rooftop, or other area appropriate for landscaping. The plants are sold and consumed by someone other than the grower.
- We encourage food growers to use raised beds with clean soil and a permeable geotextile landscaping fabric that acts as a barrier against soil contamination.
- The farmer is responsible for ensuring the soil is good quality and suitable for growing food.
- Urban Agriculture does not include raising animals.
- A stripping and grading permit is not required for Urban Agriculture activities.