Public input opportunity on Local Food Act goals

TORONTO—The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is seeking public input on a draft of local food access goals stemming from the second aspirational goal of the Local Food Act, 2013.

Under the Act, the goal entitled ‘increasing access to local food’ was proclaimed and stakeholders and other interested organizations and communities were engaged to refine three (deliberately broad) preliminary draft goals earlier this spring.

“The goals are intentionally broad in order to capture as many local food conversations as possible,” notes an OMAFRA release. “Given the desire of Ontarians to choose local food when available, and to make local food more available to everyone, the draft aspirational local food access goals are as follows: increase opportunities for all Ontarians to choose local food; increase the variety of local food offerings to celebrate the diversity of Ontario and its foods; and increase collaborations and strengthen partnerships among producers, communities, and the public and private sectors.”

Manitoulin local food advocate Valerie McIntyre said that the local food organization here has been frustrated by a lack of input into decisions in the region, particularly on Manitoulin. “I keep trying to have us included, but it has been frustrating,” she said. “We were told that the local food hub would be in place on the Island by 2016, but we have not heard anything. We have no idea what is going on.”

Ms. McIntyre said that the local group is planning to submit input.

“We are no longer part of the Island Good Food Box program,” she noted, pointing out that including the local food options in the box is problematic because of agreements to purchase from local retailers. “They told me it wouldn’t be fair to them. They are trying to source Ontario food.”

Local food is defined within the Local Food Act as “food produced or harvested in Ontario, including forest or freshwater food, and subject to any limitations in the regulations, food and beverages made in Ontario if they include ingredients produced or harvested in Ontario; this definition recognizes the traditional knowledge, diverse cultures and holistic belief systems of indigenous peoples and includes their traditional foods.”

The Ontario government is looking for public input on the draft local food access goals. “We’d like to hear your general comments regarding the draft aspirational goals and answers to the following guiding questions: How could the draft goals be revised to better support increasing access of local food to all Ontarians?; What is currently happening in your community to support local food access?; and how should success toward the draft local food access goals be measured?

Those wishing to submit feedback are requested to submit that comment by August 3, 2016 at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/local_food_goals.htm.