advocacy

Mar
18

No time to wait on food policy - how everything's coming together

It's quite a time for food security, as the provincial government speaks to several ways of moving forward, criss-crossing policy reports, legislation, and ideas on food policy. We've also never had a civil society so engaged in working towards food policy change.

The government is finally planning to move forward on social assistance through the results of its review, which had key recommendations on employment and rates of support. We've participated in advocacy on raising rates from the Put Food in the Budget campaign, and hope it moves forward.

Meanwhile, a government commissioned report was titled "No Time to Wait"... it's a strategy released for policy actions for healthy kids, with a preventative health focus. and food is the main and most extensive set of its recommendations. One of the proposals is to ban marketingof junk food to children. Something already proposed in a private member's bill by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese.

Another of its proposal is to provide incentives for food businesses to support community-based food programs, which has been proposed in a private member's bill by PC MPP Bob Bailey.

Minister of Health Deb Matthew agreed that we they need to move now as the title suggests. 

The PCs last week released an agriculture strategy with some excellent ideas on supporting food processors and local farmers with a new food hub, and a review of regulations, something we're also working to advance.

Further still, we are expecting the re-release of the Local Food Act, something Premier (and food+ag minister) Kathleen Wynne has committed to strengthening.

This approach to food policy coming from here and there and everywhere isn't new for governments at all levels, which respond to food through all sorts of departments and policies. 

The benefits of integrating food policy however have been touted at all levels, by Food Secure Canada and Sustain Ontario, and has been done to an extent at the municipal level, with a Food Strategy for the City of Toronto.

Bringing the pieces of food policies on the table under a broader provincial food strategy would help streamline the solutions that could support everyone from farmers to eaters to develop a healthier province. It would also recognize the ability of one policy to have multiple benefits for several desirable social outcomes.

It's an excellent time to move on food policy for several reasons:

  •  New food policies meet Premier Wynne's objectives and throne speech, like supporting job growth in rural Ontario and supporting small businesses to create jobs in the City and suburbs, while also creating a more socially just province.
  •  Everything's coming together - food policies are making headway through all of these recommendations and the government understands the benefit of fast action.
  •  As parties begin to cooperate more (it's actually happening, a little!) in this minority government, we can take look to food policies that will get support from multiple parties like the ones we're advocating for. And all MPPs will see the differences these policies can make in their communities.
  •  A Local Food Act is to be launched from a Premier who says she is ready to listen to Ontarians... the more ambitious the Act, the more results we get for jobs and health outcomes.

Three policies we've landed on that would create jobs in good food have shown growing resonance from workers and entrepreneurs, organizations, and the people of Ontario who have signed on from across the province. We think these have great a chance of support from different parties in the Act and in the budget:

  1. Public institutions purchase of local, socially and environmentall sustainable food;
  2. A review of regulations that hamper small food and farm enterprises;
  3. Support and funding for community food programs and social entrepreneurs in low income communities.
 
Food Forward and folks from around the province are ready to promote legislation that can get these things done, to show examples of good food policy in action and hopefully in a more connected and strategic way.
 

Darcy Higgins is the Executive Director of Food Forward. You can contact him at darcy@pushfoodforward.com

Feb
26

A kitchen in every burb!

Ask a social entrepreneur in Toronto's food scene about food or biz prep and you'll inevitably hear about a need for kitchen space.

It's the most oft heard request we get.

So we worked with Housing Services Corporation to create this map of commercial kitchens on offer in the City. Folks have been really happy about it, but I don't think we're totally satisified.

We need more rentable commercial kitchens on offer in this town. We need them for new entrepreneurs working to make sustainable and ethical products, for pop-up vendors to bring diverse foosd to the street, for Canadian newcomers to scale-up and legitimize new businesses. More kitchens would support more economic opportunities.

Some are being offered quietly by churches and restaurant owners, but aren't in a place to be doing it widely. Others might exist which we haven't found yet (please let us know!)

Our research and that of others has found this strong need, but a lack kitchens that are either certified or rented for business purposes - though good kitchens exist. The need may be highest in the inner suburbs, where many community-based catering and related food businesses exist, but kitchens on our map.

Business activity isn't always looked at as an end goal of the food movement or non-profit agencies. But it should be seen as a social and economic driver. 

Entrepreneurs may start stepping up to the plate to rent kitchens and create hubs, perhaps downtown... but with the number of community and health centres, housing, and other agencies that already have kitchens throughout the inner burbs, maybe some of them can start filling this need. As do most things, it may require some commitment, money, and time.

Food actionists are just that. So let's see what we can do.

Contact to help share ideas, solutions, connections.

Jan
31

Twitter to Wynne: be the Food Premier!

Torontonians and Ontarians think making good food policy should be a priority of the new provincialgovernment. Kathleen Wynne has committed to serving as Minister of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs and to re-introducing a strengthened Local Food Act (see her letter to Food Forward). We're looking for strong policies that will create jobs in urban and rural Ontario while strengthening social justice. Such policies could include:

- supporting institutions with goals to and financial suppport to buy local and ecologically produced food

- reviewing and changing regulations that hinder small good food enterprises

- shifting funding to support community food programs

Here's what Ontario tweeps active in community food + food businesses are telling the new Preem:

@OntarioCulinary: @Kathleen_Wynne #ontag Good food policy is #1 + will create jobs/improve social justice! Looking 4wrd to working with you!

@TOundergroundmkt: Congratulations! Please support food policy & make it a priority to create jobs and improvei social justice in food industry

@Marianne_PTF: @Kathleen_Wynne #ontag please make it a priority to implement a food policy, creating jobs and improve social justice in Ontario..lead us.

@mabelsarnia: @Kathleen_Wynne Congrats! Looking forward to a new & Wynne- Improved Food Act. Also - Glad to see Lambton represented on transition team!

@GeorginaBencsik: Ditto @edibleTORONTO

@edibleTORONTO: Thrilled with what I've seen so far, @Kathleen_Wynne! Congrats on your win. Hope local-food initiatives, incl a real food policy, on agenda.

@LisaBorden: @Kathleen_Wynne a sustainable food policy needs to be a priority! there are lots of us to support you! #ontag

@freshcityfarms: @Kathleen_Wynne Congratulations! Come see us #farmthecity and meet our farmers to see how #urbanag is growing jobs in #Ontario#ontag.

@artsysoma: @Kathleen_Wynne congrats! A sustainable food policy is important for ON #ontag

@vanessalingyu: @kathleen_wynne congrats! great news 4 #Onpoli, #foodjustice, #ontagfood & farming cc: @SustainOntario, @pushfoodforward

@smartgaysian: Congratulations @Kathleen_Wynne! Her and I both know that improved food policy is a priority and develops social justice. @pushFoodForward

@LettuceConnect: Lettuce hope that @Kathleen_Wynne will turnip the beet for #foodON and #foodTO (as she told @pushFoodForward she would be

@foodgypsy: Congratulations @Kathleen_Wynne. Best of luck on good food policy which will lead to jobs and better social justice. Let's move forward

@GreenEarthTO: Congrads! @Kathleen_Wynne #ontag good food policy is a priority and will create jobs/improve social justice

@OccupyGardensTO: @Kathleen_Wynne Congrats! It's thyme 4 food justice! Kids hungry now! Imagine a Garden @ Every School and a Community Garden @ Queens Park!

@TeamHeadwaters: @Kathleen_Wynne Buy Ontario lettuce, taters & more if chosen Premier! Protect prime farmland & water. Grow jobs, too.#FoodAndWaterFirst

Jan
18

Wynne commits to passing stronger Local Food Act + food jobs

Liberal leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne has written Food Forward, committing to pass a strengthened Local Food Act that would, "develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food." 

This statement on goals and targets across the sector is an improvement upon uncertain language in the Local Food Act. When the government prorogued the Legislature, the Act, which had just been introduced, was left in limbo.

Wynne had previously commited to re-introducing the Act and serving as Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Other relevant points in her platform relating to food/jobs include:

- "Streamline regulations that impact the Agri-food industry, review current rural/agricultural assessment and taxation, and develop a single window information approach to government" Food Forward has asked for a review of regulations that hamper small food enterprises

- "Introduce community hubs for adult education and training - coordinating government, non-profit, and private sector resources to give recent graduates, new Canadians and the unemployed practical tools to participate in the workforce"

Food Forward also wants to see buying targets and government support for farmers who grow healthy, ecological food and small food sector start-ups. Though risk management programs have their place and food exports have been a recent priority of Premier McGuinty, the government and future premier will need to develop more creative policies to effectively address and bring small farms back to Ontario. Food sector policy that considers farmer income, fair labour, and young and newcomer farmers to grow ecologically food for diverse, local markets would support the creation of new food jobs and market opportunities in Toronto. 

Food Forward also supports Sustain Ontario's call for food leadership.

See Kathleen Wynne's letter and response to our Food Forward's questionnaire below.

 

Dear Mr. Higgins,

Thank you very much for your letter enclosing Food Forward’s questionnaire. I am pleased to outline my position on these key issues of importance.

Ontario's farmers and Agri-Food businesses put healthy, locally grown food on our tables, contribute $33 billion to our economy and represent 10 per cent of our entire workforce — 700,000 jobs.

To keep our Agri-Food businesses strong, stable and secure we've invested over $2 billion in farm income stabilization programs since 2003.

Ontarians grow the best food in the world. That's why we're continuing to push hard to promote local foods and support our farmers with risk management programs. While we've called on the federal government to support Ontario farmers, the Hudak PCs won't stand up for our farmers. It's simply not a priority for them.

As Premier, I will work hard supporting, promoting and celebrating locally grown food. And only Ontario Liberals have a plan to keep building a strong and prosperous rural Ontario — one that will continue to support farm families for generations to come.

Mr. Higgins, thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Food Forward’s letter and questions— and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Wynne

#1. What would you do to support the growth of good food jobs in Ontario across the sector?

I will bring back and pass a strengthened Local Food Act, to support our farmers by promoting food grown and made in Ontario, and develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food.

Sometimes, we Ontario Liberals are accused of not taking rural, agricultural and small town issues seriously. I am going to change that. To demonstrate my personal commitment to rural and small town Ontario and to make sure that a government I lead gets it right, as Leader and Premier I will appoint myself the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for at least one year.

We also need to be selling more food to the world to create good jobs at home. That's why, in January, the Premier is leading a trade mission to China with a major focus on promoting Ontario agri-food. We're asking every Ontario family to shift just $10 of their weekly grocery budget to locally grown Ontario food, which would increase sales by $2.4 billion for our businesses and create 10,000 jobs.

I will empower our cities and towns, and our rural and northern regions. We need to move forward with a balanced approach celebrating all that rural Ontario can contribute to our shared prosperity. Working together with community and municipal leadership we can secure a prosperous future for our rural and agricultural communities in Ontario.

#2. Would good food jobs or a strengthened Local Food Act be a priority of your government?

I’m proud to have the support of Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and I will continue his good work by re-introducing an Ontario Local Food Act and working with farmers to bring more Ontario food to the table.

I am strongly committed to protecting our family farms, with important programs such as risk management, announced in the 2011 Budget. We will continue to work with farmers and industry to put more Ontario food onto kitchen tables. That includes building on our $80-million investment in Ontario’s Buy Local Strategy and supporting our local Ontario food processors through economic development funding. Our Buy Local Strategy includes substantial funding for local farmers’ markets, which has helped them increase the number of farmers’ markets from 90 in 2002 to 159 today.