Archive for the ‘blog posts’ Category

Blog #15: Your Total Today Comes to: Three Buttons

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

A local eatery in Hamilton, Ontario has developed a new way of providing for the community, through the use of their own novel currency: buttons.

Officially opened in 2014, 541 Eatery and Exchange is a local registered charity that allows less fortunate customers to use buttons as a way to pay for their meals.

How it Works

Buttons can be purchased by customers at the cashier for $1. The buttons then go into a jar, and are used by those who can’t afford a nutritious meal that day. Every customer can use up to six buttons a day to purchase a snack or coffee, with most items being priced around $3 – $6 (or buttons).

The meal prices are kept low by relying on 80% volunteers and 20% paid staff, many patrons who eat at the café also volunteer there.

Executive Director, Sue Carr, opened the eatery as a means of creating a place with a good environment that serves nutritious and wholesome meals. Since opening, the eatery has evolved into a staple community hub, with people of diverse ages and backgrounds coming together to share this communal space.

A True Community Hub

The Eatery is more than just a place to grab a bite, it is truly a community hub, with additional free activities being held regularly, including a homework club, barista training, piano lessons and more.

Due to the success and a wide community acceptance of the eatery, a new initiative will be launched as part of the next phase of their mission. Just down the street from the Eatery, 541 will open a Community Kitchen, set to host a number of free community cooking groups, and even laundry facilities.

The 541 Eatery & Exchange is truly tackling food security issues in a new and innovative way that includes the whole community. To learn more about the awesome work they do visit their website here, and if you’re ever in Hamilton, stop by and see what it’s all about for yourself!

(Oh, and you might want to try a cookie…)

posted by Aria Palcich, November 8, 2016

Blog #14: No Chips for Us, Please.

Monday, October 31st, 2016

A local food bank in Washington D.C. surprised communities with their recent decision to start turning down junk food donations. Capital Area Food Bank, the largest organization in the Washington metro area supports 540,000 people annually, and as of this fall, they will officially stop accepting junk food.

When asked why, Nancy Roman, CEO of Capital Area Food Bank, stated that as the food bank is used on a regular basis by low-income community members, it is important the food provided is healthy and doesn`t negatively affect their health. According to the food bank, 22% of people who access the food bank have, or live with, someone who has diabetes. By taking junk food off the shelves, CAFB will be try to improve the food donated to users.

“We are providing food on a regular basis to a low-income community, and we have a moral obligation that it be good food that’s not aggravating their (health) problems”
– Nancy Roman, CEO of Capital Area Food Bank

Food Banks in Canada

In Canada, the 2008 recession triggered an increase in the number of people using food banks nationally by 26%, and these numbers have remained high ever since. According to Food Banks Canada, over 850,000 Canadians visit a food bank every month.

In Ontario, 40% of food provided to patrons is either a fresh or perishable item and food banks work extremely hard to promote the donation of healthier items to users. However, food banks rely heavily on donations from the community, so the banning of junk food wouldn’t necessarily lead to an increase in healthier donations.

What are your thoughts on a no junk food policy for foodbanks? Thoughts and comments are always welcome!

Blog #13 The Future of Food

Friday, June 10th, 2016

The J.W. McConnell Foundation has invited 12 leading food thinkers in Canada to help answer important questions such as “What will food in the future look like?”, “Where are we going?”, “Where do we want to be going?”, and “What can we do to change the course?”  These thought-provoking Future of Food blogs cover topics such as:

Future Food: Conserving diversity for climate resilience
by Jane Rabinowicz, Director of the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security at USC Canada and Bob Wildfong,  Executive Director of Seeds of Diversity Canada

The Future of Food: From the Personal to the Global
by Ruth Richardson, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food

Eating Responsibly: A Daily Challenge for Tomorrow!,
by Florence Lefebvre St-Arnaud, Owner, Campanipol Family Farm 

Reading the Future in a Glass of Milk
by Isabelle Mailhot-Leduc, Sustainable Food System Coordinator, Concordia University


Blog #12: FoodNet Ontario Volunteers

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Several new volunteers are enthusiastically supporting FoodNet Ontario by posting events, researching new resources, writing blogs and tweeting about innovations in communtiy food security and local sustainable food systems. For more information about FNO’s volunteer program please contact Lorna Mcue at

Blog #11 – Networking for Innovation

Monday, July 27th, 2015

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

Blog #10: FNO Partners with Western MPH Program

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Hello, my name is Stewart and I am completing my Master of Public Health (MPH) at Western University through a practicum placement with Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition and their FoodNet Ontario initiative. Throughout my studies in the MPH program, I have taken an interest in food security issues, specifically food waste and sustainability. This interest lead me to create a Green Box Program for food waste at the program as well as an awareness effort to bring healthier and more sustainable food options for the student and staff population. Selecting this Practicum with FoodNet Ontario seemed like a natural progression as they were focused on working together to achieve a food-secure Ontario.

Growing up in Paris, Ontario I was exposed to gardening and farming as well as traditional food preparation methods. My parents were avid gardeners planting potatoes, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, onions, tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables. Rather than have my sisters and I sit around the house, it was our summer job to weed the garden and harvest whenever it was required. Both of my parents were from farming families and there was a lot of rural influence from the surrounding communities attending school in Paris. Now living in London, I do my best to grow fruits and vegetables, buy local, compost and support local food security initiatives.

I am excited to work with FoodNet Ontario this summer to increase the capacity and develop the network of members. Through my research and outreach, I hope to engage, support and help foster innovation or cooperation to achieve a food-secure Ontario. I will be adding new resources, events and publications as well as new programs to the database to help the knowledge transfer of all the innovative and progressive initiatives currently taking place in Ontario.

Look for my next blog where I will present highlights of my trip to a Sustain Ontario function at Innovate Guelph and my participation in a farm to table forum at FoodShareTO.

Blog #9: Healthy Food for All

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Across Ontario hundreds of organizations, councils and networks are working to relieve hunger and improve the quality of food available to community members. Many are engaged in developing strategies to achieve community food security and sustainable local food systems. It is a very complex and challenging situation, however, as the food system is comprised of a diverse range of activities, stakeholders, policies and regulations.

“Our efforts have been fragmented and the region.. lacks a long-term vision and coherent plan to further the development of a sustainable local food system – one that enables farmers to learn livable wages while ensuring that all residents have access to safe, healthy local food,”
(David Thompson, Rural Agri-Innovation Network).

Recognizing the lack of tools, training and other resources to engage communities in developing a shared vision of a healthy food system and a process for achieving it, seven organizations decided to work together to address this need. The purpose of this project is to increase the capacity of local communities to work collaboratively to create and strengthen sustainable local food systems in Ontario. The project is funded by the Healthy Communities Fund of the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care, from October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2015 and led by the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition.

There are five main components of the project:

1. Food Systems Tool Kit: A comprehensive, dynamic on-line toolkit is being developed in English and French to assist community organizations and others in creating and implementing comprehensive community food systems plans. The Tool Kit has been designed to be accessible by a link on any of the partners’ websites, without any other organizational identification.

2. Peer Learning Circles: Led by Sustain Ontario, participants of four peer learning circles (PLC) are meeting regularly to learn collectively about particular aspects of the food system or food system planning processes. They have also contributed tools and resources to the Food Systems Tool Kit. So far 15 Sustain Ontario blog posts have referenced the PLC. Facebook postings and linking all social media activity are other benefits being provided by Sustain Ontario.

“Sustain Ontario strives to transform the food system into one that is healthy, equitable, ecological and financially viable. We are working with the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition to leverage our collective networks and our complementary strengths to ensure that we achieve the strongest outcome for practitioners and regional community actors across the Province”.
(Karen Hutchinson, Co-Chair of Sustain Ontario)

3. Community Planning Case Studies: Four community organizations in four regions of the province are undertaking a local food systems planning process and embarking on action plans. Their activities are being documented and will be published as case studies.

  • The Huron Food Action Network (HFAN) is developing a Food Charter for Huron County. The draft food charter has now been released and a news release was issued inviting comments from key food system stakeholders and the general public. The HFAN Coordinating Committee has initiated a branding process to develop a logo and key messages that will be incorporated into the final Huron County Food Charter document.
  • Harvest Halliburton is conducting a Community Food Assessment. This project involves several working groups and 24 project partners. They have developed a two page fact sheet to promote and outline the project, and have developed working relationships with the County Planning Department which will allow them to use their GIS mapping technology. The County Tourism Department will incorporate the Community Food Assessment report in an ongoing a culinary tourism initiative that is being developed in partnership with the Ontario Culinary Tourism Association. • Reports from County Staff feature the various links and activities with the project which in turn informs County Council of project on a regular basis.
  • The Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) in the Sault Ste. Marie area is increasing access to local food through innovative marketing techniques. In August 2014 the first annual RAIN Food Summit was held bringing together Algoma and Sault Ste. Marie stakeholders for two half day food system planning sessions. The summit attracted excellent media coverage and evaluations of the event suggest that there is a great deal of interest in expanding the sustainable food system development work to include a food strategy for the area. Food Summit participants identified priority areas of focus for the Sault & Area Food Strategy including: food Access, food infrastructure, food skills and education, food procurement, forest and freshwater foods and food production including urban agriculture.
  • Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities within northern Ontario with the total population of membership (on and off reserve) estimated around 45,000 people. As part of this project, NAN is developing a food strategy guidebook to showcase planning process and community success stories, as a means of engaging leadership, funders and community members. Recently, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Food Summit 2014 – “Traditional Foods without Borders” took place in Thunder Bay. Click here to read a summary of the conference. NAN participated in RAIN’s agriculture asset building program (SNAP), a direct result of their participation in the Project Steering Committee.

4. Learning Activities: A series of learning activities will for organized for staff and volunteers of community organizations and networks who are working to develop a local sustainable food system. A three-part webinar series was conducted in February and March, 2014, in collaboration with HC Link, and recorded for future viewing. Additional webinars, one on the Food Systems Tool Kit and another on the results of the project, will be scheduled in March 2015.  The project was also presented at the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition’s Annual General Meeting on October 24, 2014, highlighting project milestones and sustainable food system development plans. Three project partners attended the Toronto event and the two other, more remote projects joined via web conferencing. Feedback from those in attendance stated that they were impressed with partnerships and outcomes.

5. Communications: The FoodNet Ontario website has been enhanced to allow greater interactivity. Eight new blog posts have been uploaded, and the Food Systems Tool Kit will be housed on this site, but accessible from each of the partners’ websites. All partners’ are contributing to sharing information and resources through their own websites and networks.

Creating a healthy sustainable food system is an important part of creating a healthy community. Community food system planning integrates factors such as nutritional quality, affordability and availability.

“This project will help to increase the profile of local food as a means to diversify and enhance the local farm economy and promote healthy eating”.  (Janice Dunbar, Chair of the Huron Food Action Network)

Further information about this project is available from the project webpage or by email at info [at]


Blog #8: Community Food Centres

Friday, February 13th, 2015

According to the Community Food Centres Canada website, community food centres (CFCs) are places where people gather together to cook, share, learn new skills and advocate for good, nutritious foods. CFCs operate from a shared space where food builds health, hope, skills and community. They provide people with emergency access to quality food in a dignified setting, as well as programs and facilities for learning cooking and gardening skills. Kids are involved in the garden and kitchen in ways that are fun and will help them make healthier food choices. CFCs help people to voice issues and find friends and support.

Community Food Centres Canada provides resources and a proven approach to partner organizations across Canada to create CFCs and also works with the broader food movement to build greater capacity for impact and to empower communities to work toward a healthy and fair food system. Currently there are four CFCs operating in Ontario, and more are being developed.

The Stop Community Food Centre (founding partner, Davenport West, Toronto)

The Table Community Food Centre (Perth, ON)

The Local Community Food Centre (Stratford, ON)

The Regent Park Community Food Centre (Regent Park, Toronto)

Drawing on my experience in practicing both in public health and dentistry in sub-Saharan Africa and rural India, the main causes of food insecurity in these communities are  low agricultural productivity, lack of clear agricultural policy or its implementation, poor infrastructure, high transportation cost due to unpaved roads and hilly geography, lack of appropriate marketing strategies for produced food, and a high disease burden in the community. I observed that community food centres played a vital role in sustaining life in many remote and rural communities in these countries. The community food centres from mission hospitals and charity organisations play a key role in sustaining life in these parts of the world. The knowledge exchange and capacity building programs conducted by these community food centre organizations is a step in the right direction towards attaining sustainable food security.

Written by: Abraham Kunnilathu, Western University MPH Grad Student;


Community Food Centres Canada:

Levkoe, Charles (2003); Widening approach to food insecurity: The Stop Community Food Centre; retrieved from: 

Stein Natalie, (2014), Theories of Behaviour Change and their application to Public Health Nutrition; Public Health Nutrition, pages 27-45.

Food and agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Statistical Year book 2012, retrieved from


Blog #7: A National Food Policy for Canada

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The need for developing a national food policy together with a clear strategy and effective programs is vital for the food security for future generations in Canada. We have abundant food now to feed our population and also feed the global populations through food aid internationally. This status of abundance can change if we do not protect our food production and distribution systems with safe food policies. The impact of urban development on our food chain, environmental impact of industrialization, rapid global population growth and the fact that 1.6 million of Canadian households are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity all underline the need to develop a national food policy.

Agriculture and agri food policy should be addressed in long term plans rather than the current five year plans and policy development should focus on the importance of food as a determinant of health to  Canadians. While public health is focusing on healthy eating and increasing access to  fresh fruits and vegetables, a national food policy should focus on protecting and enhancing farming , food production and processing with rapidly evolving science, technology and Innovation.

Canadian food policy should be able to protect the Canadian food sector which is already competing with the existing North American and European markets. New and emerging markets  from China, India and Brazil are going to give Canadian companies  tough completion in the global food market. My experiences in Africa and India have been an eye opener for me concerning the  need for a national food policy. In India, the National Food Security Act policy (2013) has made a great step toward protecting the availability of food for the rural and urban population of India who are below the country’s poverty line. But the remaining question is how effectively and efficiently this policy is going to be implemented. In Zimbabwe the prevalence of malnutrition and food insecurity is high. Practising dentistry in these developing countries exposed me to the prevalence of poverty and malnutrition of the general population and convinced me of the need for  food policies in these countries. The Canadian National Food Policy should protect domestic food production and allow food export only after meeting the food needs of all Canadian households. The policies should improve the accessibility of food to households, and increase the quality and nutritious value of food.

What upstream measures is the federal government planning to increase the accessibility and availability of food? When will we see a Comprehensive National Food Policy?

These are questions our political leaders need to consider, and I encourage you to present them to your local politicians.

Written by: Abraham Kunnilathu, UWO MPH Grad Student; Tweet @ Abraham16330808


National Food strategy; A framework for securing the future of food, retrieved from

Statistics Canada; House hold food insecurity 2011-2012; retrieved from