Response to Ontario’s Local Food Report 2021

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Author: Sustain Ontario

Posted: June 11, 2021

Categories: Edible Education Network / GoodFoodBites / News from Sustain Ontario / School Food News

In celebration of Local Food Week, the Sustain Ontario Board would like to highlight the following in response to the Ontario Government’s released Local Food Report 2021 and its discussion of our three shared goals, passed within the Local Food Act, 2013:

1. Improving Local Food Literacy

We are happy to see the 2021 Report feature our Ontario Edible Education Network, coordinated by Carolyn Webb, in partnership with diverse initiatives province-wide:

“Another notable mention is Sustain Ontario’s Ontario Edible Education Network who encourages children and youth to grow, cook, eat, celebrate, and learn about healthy, local and sustainably produced food. The network brings like-minded groups of people together to share ideas, experiences and resources that engage kids with the food they eat.”

As one example of this work, the Edible Education Network has been hosting a series of webinars over the last year on school food programs adapting to COVID-19.

What must also be noted is the significantly disproportionate single investment of funds by OMAFRA into AgScape, an industry-led organization, as opposed to prioritizing investment into non-industry-led, experiential, sustainable food systems-oriented education offerings that remain curriculum-tied, which is the priority focus of the broad members of Ontario’s Edible Education Network at their regional levels. Industry has played important and ongoing roles in funding and partnering on food literacy programs in schools, and this is the role that should be maintained, as opposed to leading curriculum development and implementation. As we work across Ontario towards the passing of Bill 216 to support Food Literacy for Students, it is imperative that parents, teachers, School Board Trustees/Administrators, public health and government policy workers prioritize investment into, and partnership with, food literacy leadership that the members of this Edible Education Network represent.

2. Increasing access to Local Food

Within the concept of local, let’s support buyers’ stated interests by strongly promoting regional first:

Foodland Ontario has always been a strong promoter of local food across Ontario, with the beginning Minister’s Message highlighting the incredible commitment of our farmers and food processors, with 200 different commodities on 49,600 farms across the province!

Sustain Ontario is encouraging increased promotional alignment by Foodland Ontario with the more than 40 regional Buy Local initiatives that work to promote demand for, purchase, and use of, food and beverage products that are grown, raised or harvested within each region of this large province, including products that are subsequently processed. These initiatives most often also focus on community economic development, food strategy and/or agri-tourism activities in their region, often appreciatively supported by OMAFRA funding.

3. Broader Public Sector access

The third goal of the Local Food Act is actually stated as encouraging increased use of local food by public sector organizations, meaning schools, hospitals, universities/colleges and other government-connected facilities, including provincial and municipal food services.

The body of the report shows that, after almost a decade, only the most basic preconditions are in place: ⅔ of institutions are now able to track local food purchases, and demand for local food has increased from 19% to almost 60%. This alone does not increase access.

We need to keep the goal squarely focused on both investing in scaling up local processing and distribution infrastructure in Ontario, and approving enabling procurement policies that set real, measurable procurement targets as the two key preconditions to provide regionally-produced food to our broader public sector institutions across Ontario.


Let’s celebrate the strides we have made on increasing access to local food and food literacy, while maintaining a clear view of critical milestones yet to be achieved.