by: Kendal Donahue
The Local Food Act was introduced in the Ontario Legislature today, signaling another step forward in transforming the food system into one with greater opportunities for healthy food and farming in Ontario.
The new enhanced Act contains further provisions to encourage public procurement of local food while also providing a commitment from government to report on local food to measure local food consumption and a Local Food Week to celebrate Ontario’s successes at increasing the amount of food grown, purchased and consumed in Ontario.
The direct economic impact of buying local is clear. An economic impact study in Waterloo Region found that every job in the agricultural sector supports 4 additional jobs in the local economy, and that each dollar of sales in the agricultural sector generates an extra CA $2.40 in sales in the local economy. For Bryan Gilvesy, owner of YU Ranch in Norfolk County, “a Local Food Act will help connect farmers to consumers, rural Ontario to urban Ontario, and provides economic opportunities for those working in communities towards a local and sustainable food system.”
Lauren Baker of the Toronto Food Policy Council expressed similar enthusiasm for the introduction of the Local Food Act, which is hot on the heels of a recently released Healthy Kids Panel report No Time to Wait: “Between the Local Food Act and the recommendations of the Healthy Kids panel, I feel that we are at a tipping point where we can make a real difference in the health of children. This Local Food Act is a great opportunity to get more healthy foods like fresh Ontario fruits and vegetables onto the plates of Ontario children, adults and families: whether they are at home, at school, in a hospital or eating out at a restaurant.”
Continuing the momentum towards local food helps the environment too; as Karen Hutchinson of the Caledon Countryside Alliance observes: “This Act really builds on the hard work and tireless effort that many people, from farmers to processors to business to not-for profit groups have been doing to build local food capacity in communities across the province. By keeping food local, we have a triple bottom line benefit for the environment, the economy and society.”
Sustain Ontario looks forward to working with government through the legislative process and through further consultations to build on the measures outlined in the Local Food Act. In particular, Sustain Ontario welcomes the opportunity to provide input on strategies for supporting regional food system development and ensuring that local food incorporates a strong ecological dimension.