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
Recognizes the commitment and contributions of a Food Forward individual member towards our mission, by supporting the design and implementation of our projects, development, capacity, and/or outreach. Also considers independent work the individual has contributed to related good food projects or policies through education, advocacy, and making connections.
We have two selections who have both contributed immensely to Food Forward and to the broader community. In one short and action packed year, Elena Hall has visioned, planned, and broken ground for the first hospital food garden in Toronto.
Working in partnership with the Scadding Court Community Centre to secure a garden plot, Elena recruited over 20 volunteers to the Feed to Seed team and coordinates twice-weekly gardening sessions. Members from across the hospital community are involved, patients, staff, and survivors. The food is used in the ELLICSR kitchen for cooking demonstrations for community members touched by cancer, and the remainder of the harvest is donated to the Fort York Food Bank.
With an ambitious agenda to obtain onsite garden space and bring good fresh sustainable food into hospital kitchens across the University Health Network Elena is truly passionate in her commitment to good food in healthcare, organizing the Seed to Feed garden outside of her full-time role as a clinical study coordinator.
Elena came to Food Forward as a nutritionist interested in improving food, especially in her work at hospitals. She has been a committed volunteer with Food Forward, and especially in creating events, discussions, and connecting players to advocate and change food at hospitals. Using these connections, she created partnered with Scadding Court after a Foodie Drinks event, starting a unique hospital-community centre partnership to make things happen.
Elena has worked with our other awardee, Linda Swanston, whose early leadership within Food Forward brought the idea to lead our work on improving hospital food. Her work - solely volunteering - has pushed this agenda, writing blogs, hosting events, and getting media coverage in the City, and connecting players and moving things forward behind the scenes.
In addition to this, Linda has worked with us to prioritize a discussion of food justice to the forefront of the food movement in Toronto. After connecting on the need for discussion on food and racism, we soon connected with the Growing Food and Justice Initiative, where Linda spent a significant amount of work to support the group to accomplish its goals.
She has been a supporter of Food Forward since the beginning, and has brought critical feedback, guidance and action in our work. This includes advocacy and our efforts to reach out and grow the organization and the movement. And she’s been personally supportive of many of us. We would like to provide them with the Food Forward Oustanding Member Awards.
Check out some of our work on better food in health care and Linda's blogs.
We're pleased to share this update from our Town Hall event, Healthy Food, Healthy Living: Strengthening Local Food Connections in Healthcare.
There was great coverage in The Grid with their reporter's learnings from the event. Food Forward is following-up to build on the momentum by considering creative ways to support better food in health care, with an "Idea Potluck" on June 26th, from 5:30-6:30 downtown. It will be a facilitated conversation and brainstorming session to establish where everyone is at in their work, where we want to go, and how best to help each other get there. Contact Linda (email@example.com) or Elena (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information and to let us know you're coming!
Thanks to Sustain Ontario for partnering and recording... check their website for Powerpoint information and a video about the Seed to Feed Project with the University Health Network and Scadding Court Community Centre.
Taking the “hospital” out of hospital food
BY: JODIE SHUPAC
Hospital food. For some, the very term sounds like an oxymoron. But healthcare institutions in Ontario are starting to pick up some of the foodie trends that have become so pervasive in society of late.
Values like local, fresh, healthy and, of course, deliciousness are beginning to enter the hospital sphere, with Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital leading by example.
At last night’s panel discussion on strengthening local food connections in healthcare, held in a committee room at City Hall, the 20-odd attendees got the chance to, as moderator and Food Forward volunteer Linda Swanston put it, “play city councilors.”
Seated at spiraled tables and lavish leather chairs, participants listened to Heather Fletcher, Food Services Manager at St. Michael’s Hospital, as well as Franco Naccarato, program manager at the Greenbelt Fund, and Elena Hall, Green Team Member/Seed to Feed Organizer at Princess Margaret Hospital, discuss the methods and outcomes of incorporating fresh, local food into healthcare institutions, and got the opportunity to submit questions on the topic.
Here’s what I learned:
Free Public Panel Discussion and Webinar
Tuesday May 15th, 2012
6:30pm – 8:00pm
Toronto City Hall, Committee Room 2
100 Queen Street West, Toronto ON
Join our inspirational panel of speakers in a conversation about how their innovative healthcare food initiatives and experiences have brought more fresh, local and sustainable food to healthcare facilities across Toronto.
Registration for the event is FREE but donations to Food Forward will be accepted at the door. If you are unable to attend in person, Sustain Ontario will be providing a FREE Webinar service. (Click to register!) Registration for the webinarcloses May 14th.
Panelists: Heather Fletcher – Food Services Manager, St. Michael’s Hospital
Elena Hall – Green Team Member/Seed to Feed Organizer, Princess Margaret Hospital
Franco Naccarato – Program Manager, Broader Public Sector Investment Fund
This event is open to all. For more information regarding the event, please contact Darcy Higgins at email@example.com or call
For more information on the webinar, please contact Carolyn Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or . If you are having any trouble joining the webinar, contact WEBEX at