Good Food and Farming Ideas for Ontario

(Text below is from 2018. Via meetings of the Buy Local, Community Growing and New Farmer Networks, as well as the Farmland Preservation Action Group, these policies will be updated for Municipal Elections 2022)

Good Food has the power to make change. Consider adopting some of these Good Food and Farming ideas to support your platform this election.

Support Sustainable Local Food and Farm Enterprises

Purchasing local, sustainably-produced food helps keep family farms viable, and creates job in processing and distribution. Money spent on local food stays in the local economy, multiplying the impact. Standards for local food procurement can make local, healthy, sustainable food accessible to all. As buyers, public sector institutions can use their purchasing dollars strategically to support local, independently operated food infrastructure projects—including processing and distribution—during their start-up phases.

This will also support new and young farmers, who are more likely to start with smaller, direct-marketing operations, and scale into regional marketing—where they run into a barrier because this regional infrastructure is lacking.

  1. Enhance municipal procurement policies for municipal programs and facilities including childcare, recreation centres, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and long-term care to increase the selection and purchase of locally grown, produced and processed food.
  2. Invest in food infrastructure to support and enhance local food production and processing.
  3. Implement actions outlined in Sustain Ontario’s Local Sustainable Food Procurement for Municipalities and the Broader Public Sector - Toolkit
  4. Implement actions outlined in Facilitating the Agricultural and Local Food Sector in Northern Ontario – A Municipal Toolkit.
  1. Do you support procurement policies that ensure locally produced and processed foods are available in publicly funded spaces such as recreation settings, long term care, and childcare settings?
  2. What would you do to ensure increased investment in infrastructure to support local food production, processing, transport, and sales?

Support Sustainable Food Production and Harvesting: Enable Future Generations and Preserve Farmland, Forests, and Freshwater Resources

Ontario has an aging farm population: 55% of farmers are over 551 and will be retiring in the next 15 years. At the same time, 91% of these farmers don't have a set plan on how they are going to transition their businesses, including $135 Billion in assets2. This is an immediate threat to the industry. It is also an opportunity.

The opportunity will require support for new entrants. While the province supports new farmer training at post-secondary institutions, there is a clear demand for practical, hands-on training that receives little public dollar support. New entrants also find the cost of farmland—which has more than doubled in most regions of the province in the last decade3—prohibitive.

We must ensure that all viable farmland remains in production, and forests and freshwater food sources remain accessible.

  1. StatsCan CANSIM table 004-0239
  2. StatsCan CANSIM tables 004-0245 and 002-0007
  3. 2016 FCC Farmland Values Report
  1. Encourage new farmers and farm succession by supporting programs and networks to match local farmers/farmland and new entrants.
  2. Support policies for densification to prevent urban sprawl on rural farmlands.
  3. Support farmland protection and access to food production and harvesting lands across your region, including small land holdings.
  4. Ensure municipalities are aware of the cultural, health, ecological, and economic value of forest and freshwater foods and have measures in place to protect and restore ecosystems.
  1. Would you champion policies to protect farmland?
  2. To ensure forest and freshwater foods are available, would you support the development of measures to ensure forests and freshwater resources are protected?

Get Healthy Food and Food Literacy in Schools and the Curriculum

Connecting children and youth with good food has tremendous potential to improve the future of children. Educators know that children learn better when they are well nourished. Providing kids with healthy and culturally appropriate food in schools and teaching them to grow, cook, eat and value healthy food can strengthen local economies and play a critical role in reducing chronic disease.

Many educators have discovered that they can help children learn better when they integrate food into the curriculum. For example, food is a great tool to teach children about why environmental stewardship is important and how to be good stewards for a healthy planet.


  1. Engage School Board Trustees in advancing good food in schools.
    1. Make sure that student nutrition and school food are represented on a relevant school board advisory committee (e.g. an existing ‘wellness committee’).  If no relevant committee exists, establish a health and wellness committee.
    2. Encourage your school board to develop school food policies, such as a healthy and local food procurement policy, that can support healthy school food environments.
    3. Encourage your school board to provide teacher training education relating to food literacy or partner with community educators to provide professional development.
  2. Promote healthy eating for preschoolers and young children at home and outside of the home such as child care centres through child care provider and parent food literacy interventions including nutrition education and cue-based feeding training. Expand food literacy programs to increase knowledge and awareness of locally grown and produced foods.
  3. Limit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids in the public spaces they frequent—such as arenas, recreational complexes, and pools—through municipal policies.
  1. As a school board trustee, how would you work towards ensuring healthy food and food literacy programs are available to all students?
  2. What actions would you take to increase food literacy and local food awareness in children, youth, educators, parents and caregivers in your community?
  3. Would you champion municipal policies that limit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children in municipal settings such as arenas, recreational complexes, and pools?

Support Community Growing

Urban agriculture is expanding rapidly on the roofs, public and private land in towns and cities—including community gardens in urban and rural locations. Accessibility to growing spaces is an issue. If desired, people living with disabilities and other marginalized groups must have the opportunity to participate in growing food—recognizing that one of the greatest barriers to community gardens today is ensuring they are barrier free.

  1. Provide meaningful opportunities for those with disabilities and other marginalized groups to identify community accessibility needs.
  2. Establish community-led standards for soil testing in community gardens, and adopt soil testing practices that are safe without being prohibitively expensive.
  3. Continue to increase the number of community gardens and growing plots in municipalities.
  4. Plant more fruit/food-producing trees on municipal lands for community harvest.
  5. Allow food-producing plants to be grown in municipal planter boxes.
  1. Would you champion policies and programs that make it easier for community gardens to begin and be sustained?
  2. Would you support a policy to ensure more food producing trees and plants are grown on municipal properties?

Enable all Ontarians to Access Healthy Food

Income is the root cause of household food insecurity. 1 out of every 8 households doesn’t have enough income to cover rent, bills, and food. This affects working families (60% of food insecure households in Ontario have employment income) as well as those on social assistance (64% of Ontario households reliant on social assistance remain food insecure). 1 out of every 6 Ontario children live in a food insecure household1

Food insecurity takes a serious toll on people’s health, and is closely associated with a greater reliance on healthcare. Income solutions such as a basic income guarantee, a living wage, and social assistance rates geared to the real cost of living are needed so that everyone has the money for basic needs, including food2

  1. Address food insecurity through municipal level actions that enhance incomes for all residents.
    1. Invest in affordable housing and accessible and affordable public transportation.
    2. Support and work with anti-poverty coalitions and food policy councils.
    3. Advocate to provincial and federal levels of government for implementation of income-based policies that address food insecurity.
  1. Ontario Dietitians in Public Health – No Money for Food is Cent$less
  2. PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research
  1. Household food insecurity is a situation where an individual or family does not have enough money to buy food because they are struggling financially.  In Ontario, 1 in 8 households experiences food insecurity (use local food insecurity rate if available). What steps do you think Council could take to reduce food insecurity in the municipality/region/city?
  2. What actions could Council take that could mean local residents struggling with food insecurity have more money for food?
  3. Do you support a basic income guarantee?

Bold Game Changer: Local Food Policy Councils

Municipalities are key players in the Ontario food system. Municipalities are promoting diverse improvements to the food system. Through food policy councils they often bring together a variety of participants in the food system to discuss their problems and collaborate on solutions. Fundamentally important for effective municipal food policy development is a strong attachment to the municipal government, active support from municipal staff, partnership between elected and unelected officials around a common purpose and mission, and food systems thinking1.

Food policy councils and similar bodies can address healthy food access, food insecurity, food literacy, and healthy food systems including food production and economic development, food systems excellence and innovation, and environmental protection (OFNS p 11)2.

  1. MacRae, R., and Donahue, K. 2013. Municipal food policy entrepreneurs: a preliminary analysis of how Canadian cities and regional districts are involved in food system change.
  2. Ontario Food & Nutrition Strategy- A comprehensive evidence-informed plan for healthy food and food systems in Ontario.
  1. Support and work with food policy councils and/or other food organizations in your municipality.
  2. Advocate for provincial and national food policy councils to support and connect the work of municipal food policy councils, Indigenous councils, and provincial food system actors.
  1. Does your municipality have a local food network or food policy council?
    1. If yes, how would you engage with your local food policy network or council to improve healthy food access, food literacy or healthy food systems in your community?
    2. If no, how would you engage and support your community in developing a network or food policy council to deal with healthy food access, food literacy and food systems issues in your community?
  2. If your municipality has a food strategy: How would you work to advance the goals of your community’s food strategy?