The Local Food Act was introduced in the Legislature on March 25 with a good introductory debate on local food need by the three parties. It passed first reading and now goes onto further debate and committee work, in which we will push forward our recommendations (see previous blogs). We wanted to share the debate, including a mention in the House of Food Forward and Sustain Ontario, and the Premier's commitment to us for a stronger Act:
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:
- Public institutions purchase of local, socially and environmentall sustainable food;
- A review of regulations that hamper small food and farm enterprises;
- Support and funding for community food programs and social entrepreneurs in low income communities.
Darcy Higgins is the Executive Director of Food Forward. You can contact him at email@example.com
Join good food heros, farmers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders from Amherstburg to Toronto to Ottawa who've signed our petition to Premier Kathleen Wynne on the need to create good food jobs through a stronger Local Food Act!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org