Research and Reports

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Our knowledge and understanding of the food system is constantly growing and changing. Research and reports can help us to make better sense of issues and opportunities. If you know of resources that are shedding light on our food system that are not listed here, please submit a resource.

Sustain Ontario Research and Reports

Policies from the Field Series

“Policies from the Field” is a series of six working papers that offer insight and analysis into promising food policies from cities and regions across North America, Europe, and Australia  Ranging from a health in all policies approach, local food procurement, land-use planning, and food policy councils, “Policies from the Field” presents case studies and examples of how Ontario can learn from innovative policies and initiatives from other places in order to transform its food and farming sector.

Local Food Procurement

This paper will outline how overlapping limitations and exceptions of trade agreements which relate to Ontario effectively carve out room for certain local food procurement measures. This regulatory space will be demonstrated through an analysis of public procurement measures of other jurisdictions subject to similar trade agreement restrictions as Ontario, namely: the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States, and Nova Scotia. This paper is part of the Policies from the Field series.

The Multiplier Effect of Buying Local Food

An exploration of the phenomenon known as the multiplier effect, or the amount of local economic activity that is triggered by the purchase of one locally-sourced item. Studies throughout Canada and the US show the million dollar impacts that buying local food can have on communities as money recirculates and quickly multiplies. The successes and challenges of the local food movement are explored in this discussion paper.


A sweeping review of food policy, food and farming industry news, global reports, and local media reveals a good food gap that results in unforeseen and unacceptable consequences for farmers, eaters, the environment, the health care system, and the economy. This good food gap is not just an Ontario phenomenon. It is a global problem that requires multi-jurisdictional solutions.

Planting the Seeds for Farm Innovation: A Guide to Achieving Flexible Land Use Policy in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe

Food and Farm Innovation in the Creative Age

There is a role for planners to play in promoting farm innovation in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. These two papers discuss how planners can address issues around land use policies such as agricultural zone classifications, minimum distance separation, minimum farm size and planning policy language that may hinder farm innovation or agricultural viability in the region.

From Land to Plate: The dilemmas and victories of alternative food distribution in Ontario

This report, co-sponsored by Sustain Ontario and the Ontario Culinary Tourism Association, gives a broad overview of the local food distribution sector in Ontario and offers five case studies of initiatives bringing local food to local tables.

Ontario Food Research Research and Reports

Food, Farms, Fish and Finance: Practical impact investment strategies to seed and sustain local food systems

This report, released in June 2015, was commissioned by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and builds upon the Food, Farms, Fish and Finance conference co-hosted by Sustain Ontario in May 2013. Based on interviews with over 80 sustainable food sector entrepreneurs, leaders and investors, the report identifies ways in which impact investors can help encourage the local sustainable food sector to strategically seize new opportunities, develop capacity and build resilience.

Dollars & Sense: Opportunities to Strengthen Southern Ontario’s Food System

Published in January 2015, Dollars & Sense encompasses the first research of its kind in Canada on the economic and environmental impacts of food production in southern Ontario, where roughly 98 percent of the province’s food is produced. This keystone report, produced by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Metcalf Foundation, and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, looks at a number of scenarios to study the potential impacts of shifts in food consumption and production (e.g. replacing 10 per cent of the top ten fruit and vegetable imports, converting 10 per cent of Ontario’s agricultural production to organic, and consumers adopting a healthier diet).

Read our summary: The Dollars and Sense of a Healthy, Ecological, Equitable and Financially Viable Food System


Metcalf Food Solutions Paper Series

The Metcalf Foundation commissioned five solution papers that together present a new vision for how we think about, produce and consume food in Ontario. The papers offer a range of strategies to promote local economic development and improve access to healthy and abundant locally-produced food.


Supply management is a regulated marketing system for farm products that consists of controls on supply (in the form of quotas) that help ensure a fair return to the producers of certain food commodities. The system operates through farm marketing boards for milk, eggs, and poultry, which allocate quotas both to farmers and to processors and administer measures to protect Ontario farmers from having the prices of their goods undercut by imports.


Across Ontario, facilities for food processing have reduced in size or closed, including the only facility that processed frozen organic vegetables. Farmers’ options for value-added processing have become extremely limited. The closures of small and medium-sized food-processing facilities have occurred at the same time that there has been growing demand for local food from consumers who are concerned about the provenance and safety of their food. Consumers cannot find the local products they seek, while farmers have lost processing facilities for some of the local ingredients they produce. A review of the entire supply chain reveals a chaotic landscape of piecemeal solutions and missed opportunities.


Food production in Toronto is primarily an informal provisioning and recreational activity. Urban agriculture is currently limited in its ability to address the inadequacies of the dominant commercial food system. We believe that action is needed in two areas: strengthening the informal sector, and jump- starting a profit-oriented food production that addresses multiple food-system problems.


Before considering a solution, it is necessary to first define the problem. In the case of food security, one way of defining the problem is “hunger,” which suggests an answer such as food distribution — any food that will “fill hungry bellies.” Institutionally, this approach has led to the proliferation of food banks and meal programs.


A collection of good food ideas to bridge the food gap and address the wide-ranging consequences of shortcomings in our food system.

Other Research and Reports

Growing Food and Green Opportunities – Black Creek Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plan (SNAP) project in the Jane and Finch area addresses food security, health, job skills training  through innovative urban agriculture initiatives in an area designated as a food desert.  It is part of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s integrated urban retrofits program to improve the local environment and to help communities better adapt to climate change by greening local infrastructure, retrofitting their homes, and encouraging positive behavior changes.

Bits & Bytes Food Security Project: Bits & Bytes was created to support the efforts of people to increase food security in their communities. There are many great resources “out there” and this website is intended to make it easier for people to find the information they need to support their own work.

Food Policy Audit: The University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation created this tool, useful for the development of policy proposals for local comprehensive plans.

The Provincial Network Report: Propagating the Food Movement: This report is part of a study that explores how organizations in Canada are mobilizing around food-related issues. It was produced in partnership with provincial network organizations in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The report also aims to support and strengthen the activities of each provincial network by providing useful information on how they work.

What’s Cooking In Your Food System? A Guide to Community Food Assessment: Published by the Community Food Security Coalition in 2002, this report begins by outlining the benefits of community food assessments using several case studies from the United States.  Once established, the report provides a series of tools for planning, designing, and initiating an assessment, followed by recommendations for results application.