food policy


Hospital food: local innovations and bigger change

It amazes and inspires me that at 12:30am Debbie Field of FoodShare is deputing to Mayor Ford about the links between student nutrition and reduced violence, better academic achievement and community resilience. She is articulately drawing the links between food and community and individual well-being that also so desperately need to be highlighted in the health care sector. At 12:30 in the morning. That’s the kind of passion and commitment that can really make change in Toronto and hopefully be harnessed to improve health care sector food amongst other things.

As I mentioned in my last post, healthy food is thankfully receiving ever more attention in Toronto area hospitals. The front page article in the Globe and Mail in late June, A cure for the common hospital meal, captured the spirit of excited conversations that are happening between local food entrepreneurs, NGOs and hospital administrators about ways to make health sector food better. The commitment of the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund (BPSF) to support these kinds of collaborations is providing a vital boost of resources.

Look what's possible for hospital food . . . this from France

Celebrated Toronto chef Joshna Maharaj, was recently hired by Scarborough Hospital with funding from the BPSF to revitalize the in-patient food services menu. She is quickly becoming a local foodie hero of sorts as she attempts to prove that patients can eat fresher, healthier, more sustainable foods that are cooked from scratch at the same cost as mass-produced, centrally sourced frozen meals that are defrosted in hospitals “kitchen-less” food service operations.

Food Forward took a field trip to see first-hand how from-scratch cooking can be made possible in “kitchen-less” operations. Leslie Carson, profiled as a 2011 Local Food Champion, took Elena Hall and myself on a fascinating tour of St. Joseph’s Care Facility in Guelph. We happened to visit on the same day as St. Joseph’s annual general meeting so we got to sample some of the delicious special event in-house catering, and meet the food services staff who’ve gone from unpacking frozen lasagne to crafting seasonal menus under Leslie’s leadership.

Seeing the kind of innovation and success that can happen, the first questions that come to mind are, what made is possible? And how can it be replicated in ways that are community and site specific in other institutions?

Food Forward thinks critical components include political leadership and vision, combined with grassroots community support for change.

Joshna suggest in her blog that, “We can make food in health care (and in the rest of our lives, for that matter) an election issue in October and we can push our politicians at every level to consider and address food issues.”

And that’s exactly what Food Forward is doing. Food Forward worked with many community partners to mobilize support for Toronto’s Local Food Procurement Policy (appended to this 2011 update staff report) during recent debates. We petitioned councillors to support local food, and encouraged concerned residents to participate. The resulting municipal win when council overwhelmingly supported Toronto’s Local Food Procurement Policy means that Toronto’s 10 long-term care facilities will seek “to increase the percentage of food that is grown locally when all factors, including costs, quality and availability are equal.”

Given the current climate of cuts in the City of Toronto this support for municipal local food procurement needs to be celebrated and built upon. The opportunity allowed for a rare discussion of local food and institutions and even farmers market's to be discussed in a positive light at Council. But future policy needs to be stronger so that local and sustainable food in a stronger way in our institutions.

At the provincial level Food Forward is collaborating with Sustain Ontario to include institutional and health sector food services in this Fall’s Vote ON Food and Farming Campaign. Healthcare food service, like related food policies, is a multi-level issue that requires municipal, provincial and federal political attention and policy innovations.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, at the grassroots level we are currently looking to connect with anyone who works in the healthcare sector or has had a recent experience of health services as a patient or family member to build our community campaign. Research is our number one need at the moment so if you’re interested please get in touch:

And lastly, just for fun, check out what hospital food trays look like around the world and stay tuned to the Food Forward Blog for further hospital food diversions and campaign developments!


Acting on local food at City Hall

Last Tuesday, the Government Management Committee reviewed a status report on the City's Local Food Procurement Policy, which was create in 2008, with a goal of the City of Toronto getting to 50% local food purchasing. Tuesday's update on this progress contained a consultant's report stating that the goal of buying 50% local was not yet practical, but staff still recommended a way forward: the City's three main departments that purchase food for young children, those in long-term homes and shelters should continue to work toward increasing their local buying.

This recommendation was not passed at the Committee, under a tied vote. In fact, Councillor Doug Ford commented that the local food policy should be done away with all together.

The tie means the policy goes to Council for final decision. Though it may not be perfect policy, it is critical that the City continue to increase its purchase of local food to support public health, our environment and our local economy. One in eight Toronto jobs is in the food sector, and dissolving the existing policy would reduce City support for local business.

Tell Councillors today to support the Local Food Procurement Policy, and that:

- Good food jobs are important and according to City staff, increasing local food content provides greater economic and business opportunities for food processors in Toronto.
- The report recommends no cost increases and so voting for the policy would not affect the City Budget
- Buying locally means reducing distance to cut our carbon footprint and keep our dollars in the local economy

You can reach them by:
- Phone - Email - Tweet- Facebook - Meeting -

Council contact info:
Write all councillors by copying this list:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

You can also sign this petition from the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Food Forward has had many discussions about local, sustainable food procurement by institutions at different levels of government also including hospitals, universities and schools. It just makes sense, and we hope to support continued progress. We will continue to discuss this issue in the provincial election, where all parties have expressed interest in buying local if not more.


Ontario Election 2011: Time for Good Food

Join Sustain Ontario, Food Forward and other partners as we build a campaign to create food policy change in the next election. Comment on one of this or Sustain's blog with questions or to get involved. We'll really be collaborating across sectors to achieve big success. Get ready, and we hope your organization or friends can help organize in your riding - our resources will help.

by Ravenna Barker and Wayne Roberts

Three huge issues will be front and centre in Ontario’s 2011 election – health, health and health. All three issues – medical health, economic health and environmental health – have one thing in common. Good food is indispensable to success with all of them.

With growing awareness of the importance, value, and potential of food across Ontario this could be the year that food finds its rightful place at the policy table. In Ontario today there is no food ministry, minister, office, department, legislation, plan or strategy. As a result we’re missing out on great opportunities to create jobs– the food sector has already become Ontario’s top employer; improve health promotion and generate huge medical savings; create lively and welcoming communities; engage students and make curricula relevant; and improve our air, soil, water and wildlife habitat. Food can make all of these things happen – but it won’t until there’s coordination across ministries, jurisdictions, communities and businesses.

Sustain Ontario’s job is to bring together a wide range of food-related community and stakeholder groups across the province. Our non-partisan goal is to help the government get its act together with food. We’d like to see all parties integrate a focus on food into their platforms, taking advantage of the opportunities that come from managing the food file in an integrated way.

Read more, including policy ideas:


Protect our Farmland, Stop the Mega Quarry