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Building sustainable food systems in Ontario

May 2, 2013  By University of Guelph

May 2, 2013, Guelph, ON – From farmers’ markets to community gardens, everything you might want to know about local food projects across Ontario is served up in a first-ever report co-authored by University of Guelph experts.

The report, released in late April, is intended to help community members develop local sustainable food systems, said Prof. Karen Landman, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development.

“Issues of human and environmental health, and vulnerability of the industrial food system, have prompted numerous alternative food initiatives around the globe and across Ontario,” says the report.

It was published in late April on the Nourishing Ontario website, which can be viewed here.

Called “Models and Best Practices for Building Sustainable Food Systems in Ontario and Beyond,” the report describes food initiatives in communities across the province, including farmers’ markets, on-farm stores and urban farms.

The study discusses local food systems, including economic, environmental and social factors involved in food production and consumption, and how they help to strengthen communities.

“As you tug on food, you pull everything with it,” said Landman, who co-wrote the report’s chapter on southwestern Ontario.

The new project began two years ago. Researchers conducted about 170 interviews across Ontario and discussed 20 case studies, including the Waterloo Region Neighbourhood Market Initiative.

The team’s lead author was Alison Blay-Palmer, a professor in geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. Referring to academic and community groups across Canada and even around the world, she said, “Everybody is trying to figure out how to improve the food system.

“Our goal for this report is to support communities across the globe that want to have access to more local sustainable food.”

Launched in 2007, Nourishing Ontario brings together researchers at Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier, Lakehead University, Carleton University, Ryerson University, York University and the University of Toronto, as well as Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia.

The group has also developed a community toolkit, run local conferences and workshops, and contributed to a themed issue of the Local Environment journal.

The group has completed a number of community food projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Earlier, Landman and Blay-Palmer worked together on projects in local food systems and sustainable rural communities.

Landman and other Guelph researchers studying local food systems have contributed to the official plan for the City of Guelph and to the Local Food Act tabled earlier this year at Queen’s Park by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is also the province’s agriculture minister.

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