Local Food Economies: Join the Conversation at Resetting the Table

Derek Leahy is a writer and farmhand based in Ottawa. He co-led the Eat Think Vote campaign in 2015.

There is a huge demand in Canada for locally produced food. A 2015 opinion poll showed 83 percent of Canadians make an effort to purchase local food, 71 percent said they were willing to pay more money for it and a whooping 94 per cent think their local produce and wheat farmers are providing safe and high quality food.

With that kind of demand, you’d assume Canadian supermarkets would be flooded with local produce. And yet, we all know that is not the case. Canada is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of food, and the sixth-largest importer at the same time. A province like Ontario, which spends $20 billion on food imports, could potentially produce over half of this food locally, according to a study conducted by McMaster University.

Around 30 per cent of food consumed in Canada is imported, according to the Conference Board of Canada. The portion of imported food Canadians purchase has been increasing since 1990.

How do we kick local food production and consumption to the next level? What regulatory changes and incentives would help local food go big? Who’s on the ground right now blazing a trail for local food producers and distributors? What are the success stories and innovative ideas shaping the future of local food in Canada?

If these are questions weighing on your mind Resetting the Table: Food Secure Canada’s 9th National Assembly has the perfect panel series for you.


Local Food Economies: Procurement, Infrastructure, Hubs

Food hubs - Adding Value and Cultivating Connections

Peggy Baillie, Local Organic Food Co-ops Network; Bruce Eric Enloe, Two Rivers Food Hub; Franco Naccarato, Greenbelt Fund

Different models of food hubs are emerging across Canada to help ‘rebuild the middle’ of the food system – aggregating and distributing local foods from small and mid-sized producers. This session will explore successes and challenges of food hubs in different contexts to access markets and close the loop in regional food systems. For example, how can value added processing help address the many challenges including food waste, farm profit margins and distribution gaps?

FoodReach: Bringing Good Food to Community Agencies and Student Nutrition Programs at Wholesale Prices

Barbara Emmanuel, Toronto Public Health; Paul Coleman, Toronto Public Health; Mark Pearlman, Enterprise Adoption Leaders; Other speaker TBC.

FoodReach is a collaborative venture that has aligned private, public, not for profit and foundation partners to help community-based organizations stabilize access to good food and reduce food costs. FoodReach is an e-commerce portal, allowing agencies to efficiently shop for food online, and to share ideas and resources in order to build a more effective system of food provision. Presenters will give an overview of the collective impact of FoodReach and the key structures needed for other jurisdictions to develop similar initiatives.

From Field to Patient Tray – How Can Health Care Institutions Build the Value Chain to Provide more Fresh, Local, Sustainable Food?

Brent Preston & Gillian Flies, The New Farm; Grace Mandarano & Paul Sawtell, 100km Foods; Representative CUPE; Wendy Smith, MEALSource; Hayley Lapalme, Nourish/J.W. McConnell Family Foundation;Joshna Maharaj, Chef and activist. Moderator - Jennifer Reynolds, Food Secure Canada.

This discussion-focused panel will explore both the opportunities and challenges being faced by healthcare facilities and local food sellers to develop the value chain from ‘the field to patient tray’. What might producers need to do to be more market ready? What issues do distributors in selling to the institutional market? How can institutions effectively change their purchasing, food services, policies, and engage stakeholders and staff to embrace change? How can new relationships be brokered to making meaningful connections with the food that patients, families and staff are served in health care institutions?

Making Food Choices Meaningful to Shift Narratives

Amy Rosenthal, School Food Focus; Sarah Grant, Localize; Hannah Wittman, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems – UBC; Hayley Lapalme, Nourish/J.W McConnell Family Foundation. Facilitator - Jennifer Reynolds, Food Secure Canada

Communicating the impact of food choices on health, the economy and the environment is a key way to spark change in the behavior of consumers, students and institutional procurement. What is involved in communicating these messages that build awareness to encourage a shift towards greater sustainability in food systems? Farm to school programs build student food literacy, peer networks support other champions and collaborations to emerge, metrics on institutional purchasing help institutions be more aware of their behaviour and impact, marketing and food chain transparency informs retail consumer choices. The session will explore the differences between these strategies, how they support each other and where they fall short.

Sustainable Food Businesses - What Does Policy Change Have to Do With It?

Andrew Heintzman, InvestEco; Paul Sawtell, 100km Foods; Lulu Cohen-Farnell, Real Food for Real Kids; Ryan Turnbull, Eco-Ethonomics; Dan Donovan, Hooked. Moderator: Christie Young, FarmStart

Many successful businesses are responding to the growing consumer demand for sustainable food and driving change in our food system. This panel will explore which policies, regulatory changes and incentives could foster greater innovation in businesses that deliver on the triple bottom line. How can we develop the infrastructure, markets and supply needed so that all Canadians can benefit from a thriving, sustainable local food economy?

Turning on the Power – Starting Urban Farms in Hydro Corridors

Rhonda Teitel-Payne, Toronto Urban Growers;, Juneeja, Varghese, Malvern Family Resource Centre; Ryan Noble, North York Harvest Food Bank; Andrea Boucaud, Flemingdon Health Centre

Urban farms can be sites for reclaiming neighbourhood food sovereignty through community engagement and significant food production, but land access and enabling policies are a major challenge. Presenters will share how they established four urban farms in Hydro corridors with a focus on community economic development, including the ground-breaking collaborations formed, the points of resistance encountered and the tools for overcoming them. Participants will be able to discuss their own related experiences and potential projects.

Scaling Sustainable Local Food Systems Up and Out: The Potential of University Procurement

Lori Stahlbrand, University of Toronto; Celia White, Meal Exchange, Real Food Challenge Coordinator; Jaco Lokker, Director of Culinary Operations & Executive chef, U of T Food Services; Representative TBC, CUPE

Hear about exciting new developments in university procurement from Canada, the US and the UK. Find out how universities can and are playing a leading role in food-system transformation. Learn about the power of student engagement and leading models for collaboration among students, faculty, administration and food service, including Meal Exchange’s newest program, the Real Food Challenge. Sample local and sustainable food from U of T's newly re-organized food service department.

Food By Ward: Mapping Food Assets and Opportunities to Strengthen Local Food Economies in Toronto

Melana Roberts,Toronto Youth Food Policy Council; Rachel Gray, Toronto Food Policy Council

Learn about Toronto’s newest tool for advocacy and food policy development! Food By Ward: Food Assets and Opportunities in Toronto is food asset mapping tool that supports the development of strong local food economies, providing baseline information regarding existing food assets and opportunities across the city’s 44 wards. This interactive presentation explores how food mapping can be used to advance and guide community-led food priorities, engage city staff and Councillors in important food policy conversations, and increase the appetite for food in city planning. It also highlights the potential for food mapping in understanding issues of food access as they relate to poverty reduction initiatives, transit equity, and present opportunities to bridge gaps in access to food resources in Toronto. More than a planning resource, Food By Ward and the TFPC’s Food Champion initiative, are working to strengthen local food networks and build cohesion between local and city-wide food priorities.


What Local Food topics would you like to see discussed at Resetting the Table? Join the dialogue: