Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

Smart ideas for Ontario food policy

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

They may not be sexy, but smart, well-crafted food policies, rules and programs play a big part in building a more sustainable food system.

On February 11 and 12, Sustain Ontario unveiled Policies from the Field, a series of working papers on policies to boost healthy eating and local food production. Sustain Ontario is an alliance of provincial stakeholders – including Ottawa’s Just Food — that advocates for healthy, sustainable food and farming.

The first four papers in the series consider national and international food policies that Ontario’s municipal and provincial governments could adopt in areas such as:

  1. food policy councils
  2. local food procurement
  3. inter-sectoral food agendas, and
  4. land planning to improve local food access

A paper about food hubs will come out February 19, 2013.

In this post, I’ll cover the highlights from the first three papers. Next week, I’ll look at the reports on land use planning and food hubs. Sustain Ontario has posted Policies from the Field online.

Ontario: The Case for a Provincial Food Policy Council

Authored by U.S. community food activist and writer Mark Winne, this paper argues that there’s a lack of common focus to food policy at the provincial and state government levels in North America. While for-profit and non-profit groups have stepped into the void, they may lack the capacity or clout to deal with challenges such as food insecurity, rising obesity rates, and the decline in family farms.  Food policy councils can help bridge the gap by bringing citizens, stakeholders and governments together to actively plan and manage food systems. Examples of successful food policy planning include Toronto and Edmonton at the city level and Nova Scotia, Connecticut, Michigan and New Mexico at the provincial/state level. Given the uncertain future of global food, Winne concludes that cities, provinces and countries that don’t actively shape their own food systems will be at the mercy of forces they can’t control.

As far as Ottawa is concerned, we will soon have our own food policy council.  Slated for launch in the near future, the council will include representatives from the City of Ottawa, citizens and other food system stakeholders.

Possibilities for Local Food Procurement in Ontario

Procurement policy is key to a thriving local food system. As the U.K., Italy and the U.S. have learned, when governments and publicly-funded organizations (e.g., school boards, hospitals, universities) start sourcing local food, it ramps up supply, along with the infrastructure to process and distribute it.  But there’s a stumbling block. Ontario’s ability to procure local food is restricted by a slew of trade agreements – NAFTA, the agreements Canada is negotiating with the European Union (CETA) and Pacific nations (TPP), and others. These agreements prohibit the countries involved from choosing suppliers based on geographic location.  As a result, limiting bids on a food contract to local suppliers would be seen as discriminatory. That said, there may be some wiggle room, according to the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).  For example, following the lead of several EU nations, Ontario could craft requests for proposal with “technical specifications” to favour foods based on seasonality, freshness or local organic certification.  It might also be possible to set policies that are exempt from trade agreements altogether, such as measures that would apply to contracts below a certain dollar value or that would support non-profit organizations.

Health in All Policies

This paper from food policy analyst Wayne Roberts describes a strategy called Health in All Policies (HiAP) that’s endorsed by the World Health Organization and has been adopted in Finland, the EU and South Australia. In a nutshell, HiAP is an inter-sectoral approach to health issues that connects them to all government agencies instead of just health departments. Roberts suggests that Ontario could implement a HiAP approach to food issues instead of scattering responsibility for them among different bureaucracies such as employment, the environment, health, agriculture and fisheries. This approach would allow people from the various food sectors to understand how interconnected their issues are and what they could achieve by collaborating on an integrated agenda.

What municipal or provincial policy would you change to make local food more widely accessible?

About Earthward

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Earthward is a blog about sustainable food in Ottawa, Ontario.

It looks at the farmers, entrepreneurs, chefs, eaters and policy-makers in the city and across the region who are growing a local food economy that respects the earth, nurtures community and strengthens our appreciation of good, healthy food.

The goal of Earthward is to spark conversation, and to engage people who want to know more about sustainable food and help bring it to their neighbourhoods.