food policy

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.

Jan
6

Good food jobs can grow in Ontario

If Toronto and Ontario want to be successful economically and socially over the next few years, we must create more jobs.

This has been on the mind of the public, businesses, and politicians lately, but hasn’t been prioritized in the way it needs to be. If we create new jobs in a good food sector, we have more work that is meaningful, and that improves the health of our communities and environment, while giving a leg up to newcomers, young people, and others looking to have a job and make a difference.

The GTA alone already has 110,000 direct food jobs, with those in processing being more resilient and higher paying than those of many other sectors. Most food grown in Ontario is also processed in Ontario.

However, the vast majority of food consumed in Ontario is imported. Farmers are suffering with an income crisis, while our food is being subsidized by off-farm incomes, cheap farm labour, environmental pollution, poor treatment of animals, and processed foods. So our health, environment, and work standards are affected. It doesn’t need to be that way. The solutions are complex, but there are some things we could be doing right away to make a change.

Quality grown foods sold to local markets can often yield farmers a better price while bringing good food through bakeries, dairies, and restaurants to consumers. The GTA Food and Farming Action Plan, endorsed by all area municipalities, champions a quite notable goal of creating the greatest food and farming cluster in the world. Working towards that goal would quickly bring good new jobs to Ontario. Political leadership in 2013 would support the sector in making it happen.

The Liberal Party leadership race has been talking jobs and entrepreneurship. You’ve heard it from Glen Murray, Charles Sousa and others.  Eric Hoskins mentioned growing food sector jobs specifically in a leadership debate, while Kathleen Wynne has vowed to bring back the Local Food Act and become Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs if she becomes premier.

A stronger Local Food Act that puts job creation at the forefront could go a long way.  In the United States, the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act has been proposed and co-sponsored by dozens of congressman and senators, and would provide policies and funding for good food jobs.

We need that in Ontario too. Many ideas to do it have already been proposed, and we now need them supported by better legislation, regulations, funding, and programs.

The Local Food Act must be strengthened to create further goals, targets, research, and support for hospitals, universities, and all other public institutions, to increase the amount of fresh, local, and ecologically produced food, as suggested by Sustain Ontario. The NDP’s Buy Local Food Act contained targets for local and organic food. The City of Markham’s local food policy has brought procurement of local sustainable food to 30%.

The Province should also work with businesses, municipal governments, public health and economic development departments, and other agencies to build the capacity needed to bring local food infrastructure back to Ontario.

A review of regulations that hamper small food enterprise could also lead to the creation of new jobs in Ontario. In rural, suburban, and urban parts of the province, entrepreneurs are finding unclear and outdated, intelligence-challenging regulations that don’t affect health, safety, or the environment, but hamper their ability to undertake a business venture.

PC MPP Ernie Hardeman has launched a survey of food processors, asking what regulations are causing headaches and to determine how the sector can be better supported. Some regulations don’t work for small-scale local enterprises and have resulted in closures. Governments need to be leading or supporting, not hindering the local economy.

Finally, the government can create jobs by investing in our communities, as has been proposed by the Green Party. Community food solutions from social entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations are forming healthier communities through community development programs, food literacy, and local economic development. Their work is often high-impact but low-budget. Governments have been largely missing in action, and must engage more closely with this on the ground work.

Providing stable community grants and funding to this work would be money well spent in creating good food sector jobs. Shifting a relatively small funding pool through in any of a number of ministries could be used by organizations to implement preventative health solutions while creating multiplier social and economic effects. Young people are ready with the skills and passion to work in this area and to show results.

By focusing on strong good food procurement and capacity, better regulations, and community funding, we can create healthier urban centres alongside more vibrant rural communities. The quicker we act, the sooner we see more people employed in this most critical sector.

Contact Darcy Higgins, Executive Director, at darcy@pushfoodforward.com

Nov
9

Calling for unanimous support to GrowTO

Food Forward has called on councillors to fully endorse Scaling Up Urban Agriculture today as the Parks and Environment Committee discusses a report moved by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon highlighting recommendations from the GrowTO Action Plan.

We have written in support of the recommmndations after a remarkable show of interest in urban agriculture this summer and increasing support over the last decade in the form of several reports, city strategies, community programs and new enterprises. We are looking forward to see the City will take another step forward in its support of an urban agriculture program and a co-ordinated office. 

As the number of Torontonians vulnerable to food insecurity increases due to the economic situation, urban agriculture can be part of a strategy for increasing access to good food, and create jobs in all parts of the City. 

To do this, we'll need to see an increase in support and leadership from the City to end any unnecessary hurdles faced by community members, agencies, or budding entrepreneurs. The City support within a number of divisions that exists has been helpful in producing results. Stumbling blocks are sometimes faced in Parks, due to lack of City staff resources, and will erode somewhat in 2013 due to the loss of the Live Green animator program. The recommendations also aim to review policy change to support land use and sale of food.

We hope for unanimous support and a strong call from the Committee to see a report return in good time that will bring enhanced City support and a clear, simple program to respond to Torontonians' action in the growing and distribution of food.

Find Councillor McMahon's letter and motion and the GrowTO Action Plan and its many more recommendations for Toronto's food and political community. And more here on our past urban ag work.

Nov
8

How do our gardens grow?

Community gardening is on a roll in Toronto. Gardens are part of most community food programs and a part of developments in new park and neighbourhoods plans throughout the City.

Despite this, the City hasn't met its 1999 target of a garden in every ward... we're short about 19 wards (outof 44). Though the target may have been more symbolic than practical (it takes a community not government itself to create a garden), there is still work that City staff, residents, and councillors can do together to achieve our potential.

Taking leadership in this work has been the Live Green community animators under EcoSpark, who have been working all over the City supporting residents to start community gardens along with other local food and environmental projects. Food Forward has worked in partnership with the four animators and watched them do amazing things to support and enable community work. For example, our Food For Ward rep in ward 25 is working with North York's community animator to start a community garden in York Mills.

It is unfortuante then, after a five year run, the community animation program (destined to run for that length), is ending this year. As a final event, the animators are organizing four panels for community members working to start environmental projects. I am excited to be moderating the discussion on community gardens with a number of experienced community food organizers. 

I hope that a type of animation program can again be re-born with the City's support. For now we can learn from each other's work through forums like these; food and community organizations in the City; and one-on-one connections built through events like Foodie Drinks', Facebook, and networks including the Food For Ward Project we've established. 

We can also work with local city councillors, many of whom are more than happy to assist gardens get started. We've had conversations with many and know of councillors who are helpful or want to help - here's an incomplete list of food & garden keeners if you're want to connect (and let us know who we should add): Councillors Bailao, Councillor Berardinetti, Councillor Carroll, Councillor Cho, Councillor Colle, Councillor De Baeremaeker, Councillor Doucette, Councillor Filion, Councillor Fletcher, Councillor Fragedakis, Councillor Layon, Councillor Matlow, Councillor McMahon, Councillor McConnell, Councillor Parker, councillor Pasternak, Councillor Robinson, Councillor Vaughan, Councillor Wong-Tam.

Check here for more resources.