Earlier this month, the Ontario Federation of Labour released A People’s Budget: Towards a Fair Ontario. The People’s Budget was initiated as a campaign against the austerity agenda, which has resulted in severe cuts to vital services, and issued policy recommendations based on five priorities: creating good jobs; alleviating poverty; supporting families and workers; tax fairness and revenue generation; and giving young people a fair chance.
According to the official OFL report, the purpose of the exercise was, “[t]o change the conversation on austerity, and prepare for a more inclusive, more just 2013 Ontario Budget…” Consultations were held in nine communities throughout Ontario where presentations were given by 83 individuals and groups. 55 submissions were also made through online channels.
Local Food was a major focus of the People’s Budget and was specifically cited among the policy recommendations included in the report. Specifically, the report urged Ontario’s government to “[s]upport our farmers in accessing local markets by developing a broad local food procurement policy for Ontario schools, hospitals, and other public institutions (p. 11).”
Consultations also revealed that more than 16,000 youth in the Windsor-Essex area are living in poverty and that 14,000 food bank users in Sudbury are currently working, highlighting the urgent need to address food insecurity.Sustain Ontario made a submission at the Toronto consultation, suggesting that the Government reintroduce a Local Food Act aimed and follow up with corresponding programming that is designed to support healthy, equitable, ecological and financially viable local food systems. Sustain Ontario also encouraged the People’s Budget panel to adhere support the following recommendations issued in our Local Food Act Statement of Purpose:
- Supporting local communities in developing their own localized food system solutions and enabling farmers to connect with local institutions such as restaurants, schools, and markets, so that their food products can be more easily accessed by local consumers.
- Provide Ontarians with knowledge, skills, resources, and relationships to support healthy choices, including children and adults.
- Provide greater support and funding for health promotion and education on the workings of the food system and how food choices impact individual health, the environment, and the economy.
In addition, Sustain also emphasized the need to address the long-term health of Ontario’s children through the lens of food and nutrition by accepting the recommendations of the Healthy Kids Panel. Carolyn Webb, Coordinator of the Ontario Edible Education Network, previously encouraged adopting to following measures to provide for more healthy and equitable communities in Ontario as well as for the well-being of its youth. These recommendations were reiterated during Sustain’s presentation for the People’s Budget.
- Implementing fresh, local, and sustainable procurement policies for schools.
- Establishing children and youth gardens, composters and culinary programs in schools.
- Emphasizing a focus on food literacy (understanding where food comes from, the impacts of food on health, the environment and the economy, and how to grow, prepare, and prefer healthy, safe and nutritious food) as a valuable tool for reducing the incidence of childhood obesity and other diet-related illnesses.
- Ensuring that families have access to fresh, healthy food regardless of their socioeconomic status.
- Supporting the implementation of an Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy (click to read the in-depth strategy).
Sustain Ontario was truly privileged to be included in this project and give further voice to local food issues and their role in fostering a prosperous and healthy Ontario. We look forward to working with policy makers to provide input on supporting the development of a sustainable, ecological, and equitable local food system.