Blog #11 – Networking for Innovation

As a part of my practicum placement, I have been able to attend two great days of presentations and discussions on Food Security initiatives in Ontario. The first such event was hosted by @SustainOntario where the topic was ‘Growing a Local Food Strategy: A Day of Dialogue among Community Leaders and Decision Makers’. Later that week, @FNOntario was able to send me to @FoodShareTO to attend a Field-to-Table Farmers’ Meeting, focusing on getting healthy local food into communities. During my research on food security initiatives and events in Ontario, FoodShareTO and Sustain Ontario stood out as key organizations pushing food security dialogue, innovation and policy and it was exciting to gain this exposure.


At the ‘Growing local food strategy’ presentations were delivered on the success, failure and determination required either way in developing a local food strategy. Although a couple presentations discussed the success of Toronto’s and Thunder Bay and Area’s food strategy; Edmonton was discussed as a process to learn from. Partnering local strategies within a regional plan, allowing the process to take time and include all stakeholders and knowing the current state of the policy cycle were all communicated as being essential to developing local food strategies. However, it seems that ensuring sustainability in the reality of short-term funding world is more of a factor in food security than anything else. Health units or local governments in certain regions cannot support food security programs that produce elements such as health benefits that are difficult to measure. There is a need to better promote the economic benefit of these initiatives and in turn, make local food strategy more centred on promotion and economic benefit.


Innovation and new ideas were definitely on display at Food Share during the field to table meeting. Presenters ranged from 100kmFoodsInc, Norfolk Growers Association, Food Share Toronto and a new procurement initiative Food Reach. All discussed how to ensure local food is promoted, purchased and consumed more in Ontario. Again, the economic factor of food security emerged as something to focus on within this sector. However, what stood out to me was the element of data that Food Reach is attempting to gather with their community food procurement website. If local food systems are to be transformed or strategies are developed, it must be based on solid data to ensure it sustainability. If we can discern that all elementary schools use 10 apples a day, why not ensure this is planned for by local farmers within a certain region, and develop contracts with local farmers to supply.


These meetings and gatherings are important to know that there is hard work being done and that there is a lot o great work being done for food security in Ontario. FoodNet Ontario has an important role to ensure that these initiatives have access to other programs to learn, partner and succeed within their communities.  This network is integral for Ontario to develop sustainable local food systems through this facilitation of communication among stakeholders when developing effective programs, tools and policies.

Written by Stewart Coppins, July 27, 2015

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