Candidates connect with local stakeholders on opportunities to strengthen Ontario’s food systems, develop regional food strategies
Across Ontario, over 150 candidates for municipal councils and school boards are taking part in the Vote ON Food & Farming municipal elections campaign. As part of the campaign, council candidates have responded to surveys crafted by local food champion groups that take a solutions-based approach to issues such as regional economic resilience, farmland preservation, community food access and food literacy. Ontario is full of innovative programs and policies that address these issues, but many need council support to have a deeper impact.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with the positive responses we’ve heard from candidates,” says Carolyn Young, Program Manager at Sustain Ontario. “Many expressed surprise at discovering how much of an impact they can have on their local food systems. It shows that candidates want to take action on these issues, but more needs to be done to educate them on the impact they can have through food.”
The local campaigns are led by Local Food Champions – food policy councils, stakeholder roundtables, and non-profits active within the municipalities – and coordinated by Sustain Ontario, the Alliance for Healthy Food & Farming, a cross-sectoral alliance of over 80 member organizations. Local Food Champions sent surveys to all candidates running their upper-tier municipalities. Read candidate responses at voteonfood.ca/municipal-elections. All submitted responses are linked to from the respective municipality’s page.
“The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table is beginning the process of building a Regional Food Strategy. By engaging regional candidates with the voteonfood.ca survey, we hope to remind voters and municipal leaders that food and farming are critical to the economy, environment, and community well-being of our region,” says Phil Mount, Co-Chair of the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table, the Local Food Champion for Wellington County where over 60 candidates have participated. “We also think this survey will initiate a discussion – and identify consensus points – among community leaders that will serve as a strong foundation for a Regional Food Strategy.”
Municipal governments can be strategic innovators in food systems’ work. Council support of food and farming policies and programs can help municipalities meet so many of their goals related to vibrant local businesses, safe and inclusive communities, environmental sustainability and healthy citizens of all ages.
Leading 7 local campaigns, Local Food Champions sent surveys to all council candidates in:
- Wellington County
- York Region
- Greater Sudbury
- Counties of Frontenac (including Kingston) and Lennox and Addington
- Haliburton County
- Essex County
- United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Independent food-focused campaigns for the City of Ottawa and the Thunder Bay Census Metropolitan Area are also profiled on the Vote ON Food & Farming municipal elections hub.
In addition to the council candidate surveys, Local Food Champions have also sent the Say Yes! to Good Healthy Food in Schools survey to candidates running for school board trustee. The Say Yes! survey is part of a toolkit designed by the Ontario Edible Education Network to help school food advocates and decision-makers in local and provincial government make the case for Student Nutrition Programs, food literacy in the curriculum, and other ways of advancing school food environments.
The Say Yes! survey is also being distributed to school board candidates in Renfrew County, the City of Ottawa, and Muskoka District.
Food can be a great tool for building consensus according to food policy expert and author of The No Nonsense Guide to World Food and Food for City Building, Wayne Roberts. “In 20 years, do you still want one child in five going to school hungry or malnourished? Who would say yes to that? Do you want to see a third of all citizens, including kids, suffering from chronic diseases linked to obesity? Who would say yes? … Get your mind free of the space where the rubber hits the road, and think about what kind of city is needed. There’s amazing consensus on that.”
The Vote ON Food & Farming website is chock full of information and tools for local decision makers who want to make a difference in their communities. New resources include:
- Why in Municipalities: A glossary of the various functions/departments managed by municipal governments, and their connections to food & farming
- Why Food and Farming in Municipalities: A review of best practices and promising practices that demonstrate how municipal governments are well-positioned to make healthy, local food a reality for Ontarians everywhere
- School Boards Say Yes: Links to the Say Yes! to Good Healthy Food in Schools toolkit including backgrounders, opportunity briefs, research papers and case studies
Explore the participating municipalities on the Municipal Elections hub at voteonfood.ca/municipal-elections. Candidate survey responses are linked to from their municipality’s page and have been published on a rolling basis. Candidate responses continue to be submitted and published until October 24th.
Download a PDF version of this media release.