Community garden rep says regulations may mean food banks can’t accept donations of produce from community and home gardens

ICE LAKE – A representative of the Western Manitoulin Community Garden is concerned that under section 29 of Ontario’s Food Premises regulation, food banks can’t accept donations from home gardens, including community gardens. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Linda Willson told the Recorder earlier this week. “We have found out that under this section of the food regulation, home and community gardens can’t provide excess to food banks. Especially when the demand is so prevalent these days.” 

CBC News reported on Monday, August 17 that home gardeners and community gardens can’t donate their extra veggies to Sudbury food banks as section 209 of Ontario’s Food Premises Regulation indicates that food banks can’t accept donations from home gardens.

The Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council is urging public health (Sudbury District) to review its interpretation of the provincial food regulation, CBC News reported. Erica Lagois, co-ordinator at the food policy council, was quoted as saying she first encountered the regulation and restrictions earlier this year through the Community Garden Network. She had been promoting a joint initiative, the Home Garden Project, which was designed to encourage people to use the pandemic as a time to plant their own gardens at home and donate their excess produce to food banks in the region.

However, it was then she learned that donating produce from home or community gardens is in violation of the regulations. When food banks are getting food it has to come from a source that is either provincially or federally inspected. In response to the provincial regulation, the food policy council drafted a letter requesting an exemption for food banks and is working with the local health unit to find a solution.

For similar organizations in other cities in Northern Ontario, like the Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, they are able to accept produce donations.

A spokesperson with Public Health Sudbury and Districts told CBC News a lawyer is being consulted to review the health unit’s interpretation of the regulation.

“Not all areas are enforcing this section of the Food Premises Act,” said Ms. Willson. “They have every right to enforce the laws, but especially now when food banks are so busy and dependent on these gardens would they restrict gardens providing food.” She and her husband have a food premises licence for a food garden, she added.