Today, the City of Ottawa’s Finance and Corporate Services Committee met to discuss the future of the Community Partners Insurance Program.
Community gardens within the Community Gardening Network have been included in this free City-funded insurance program since 2004. Just Food has been working to ensure this critical service continues to be provided long-term as it has been in question, along with coverage for other community groups.
At today’s committee meeting, it was confirmed that community gardens will continue to receive free insurance coverage for the upcoming 2024-2025 period. We are still seeking clarity on any process changes for community gardens, and exactly which plan community gardens will be covered under.
We thank Councillor Kitts for her motion today that explicitly states community gardens will continue to receive free, City-funded insurance coverage.
Read below for our delegation:
Hi all, my name is Kate and I’m the Community Gardening Network Coordinator at Just Food. I’m speaking today to highlight the concerns we have with the proposed changes to the Community Partners Insurance Program.
Community gardens of all models within the Community Gardening Network have been included in the free City insurance program since 2004, for many years now supported within CPIP. It’s concerning to see they are not mentioned at all in the report attached to today’s agenda.
We’ve received verbal confirmation that community gardens should not be affected by the proposed changes; however, without explicit written confirmation that this coverage will continue, for all community gardens within the CGN, not just on City-stewarded land, but also other public or private lands, and with all the diverse models that we work with, we have to assume the future of community garden insurance coverage is not secure.
Because of that, I’d like to reiterate the importance of community gardens, and of creating an enabling environment within which to support them.
Yes, community gardening is a fun physical, recreational activity where residents get to grow food for themselves, their family and friends. The reality is that community gardens provide so much more.
Community gardens provide space for growing food that many residents would not otherwise be able to access. Even small plots can be strategically planted to produce high yields that can have a tangible impact on reducing a rising grocery bill while increasing fresh produce consumption.
Community gardens are a gathering place where people can actually learn to grow food, and teach their kids, families and neighbours to grow food. To learn from older generations about the best ways to get the biggest harvests, or to learn from younger folks about new technologies in the gardening world. Food literacy is at the heart of every community garden, where community members can learn and practice skills that has even sent them on a path to larger scale food production. These are the critical skills that we need to be developing locally to build resilient communities. They are also critical skills that cannot develop without having access to land to grow and gain that hands-on experience.
Community gardens are spaces to build strength among diverse groups of people, to provide the opportunity to connect outdoors, share resources, problem solve, communicate, collaborate.. Again, these are critical skills that are needed for building resilient communities.
I’d also like to emphasize the connection between many community gardens and their community associations, which continue to play a pivotal role in starting, supporting and championing the gardens in their communities.
Many community associations have also highlighted and prioritized food security needs in their neighbourhoods. Just Food has already facilitated, and will continue to facilitate, more neighbourhood-level assessments as an important approach to dealing with community food security. All Community Associations need foundational support like the CPIP to engage in this type of critical work.
As community developers, as City staff, and as City Councillors, we are all working to establish these types of opportunities that support residents to strengthen our city. We rely on volunteer community members to take part in the programs and services that we all work so hard to set up and make available.
Residents deserve to participate safely and securely.
Continuing to include community gardens, and community initiatives like community associations and community arenas, in a free, fully-funded City-managed insurance program is critical for ensuring this safe and secure participation. It is also critical to ensure this does not become something that competes with already meagre funding envelopes at Community Funding or Civic Events funding, and we ask that if there is a problem with finding adequate insurance described in this motion, that the ninth point be removed from this motion, and that instead Council direct a report be brought back to City and the public for consultation and further consideration.
We also ask that Councillors ensure that community gardens is explicitly written as included within CPIP coverage for any direction forward that comes out of today’s meeting, if it is not newly included in the City’s integrated insurance program, as we have not to this date been able to determine from staff where it lies.
We thank Councillor Kitts for seeking clarification on this within her motion and ask that this be clarified, in order to ensure long-term clarity on inclusion of community garden coverage.
Thank you for your time.