Why Local Food Matters in Ontario

Matteo Pirri

With the constant barrage of attack ads, Twitter hashtags, and political commentary leading up to Election Day next Thursday, you would be forgiven for failing to notice that Ontario is currently in the midst of its first official Local Food Week, which began today and runs until June 8.

I heart local - with white heart in bkgrnd and transp CMYK

Local Food Week was born out of last year’s Local Food Act, and is dedicated to highlighting Ontario’s locally produced meats, eggs, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

As McGill University’s Food and Dining Services identifies, local food is worth celebrating given its many noted benefits, which include:

  • It being good for the environment. Local food doesn’t have to travel very far to arrive on your plate. Choosing local food options helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to improving our carbon footprint.
  • Supporting the local economy, including local farmers and other producers.
  • Encouraging sustainable agriculture and facilitating the tracking of food supply chains back to their points of origin.
  • Being assured that the food you are consuming is safe and has passed Canada’s high safety standards and regulations regarding the use of additives, pesticides, herbicides, etc.
  • Potentially consuming more nutritious food as some produce is susceptible to nutrient loss when harvested and transported long distances.

Despite the well documented environmental, health, and economic benefits associated with local food consumption, ensuring that Ontario is able to maintain a vibrant local food economy has not been much of a talking point in the current election. While the Liberals, NDP, and Green parties all identify local food as an area of policy importance in their respective platforms, the issue has not been widely highlighted in this current electoral contest. There may, admittedly, be bigger issues to deal with – that said, to seldom have local food mentioned as an area of concern or interet for Ontarians is – in my opinion – somewhat disheartening.

Given the current dismissal of local food on the campaign trail, it is perhaps fitting that the bulk of the work going into the promotion and celebration of Local Food Week seems to have fallen to various local food proponents, non-profit organizations, and municipalities across the province. From well known non-profits like Free The Children to small towns in the more rural regions of the province, Local Food Week has established itself at birth as an Ontario-wide affair.

It may not be high on the political agenda, but that doesn’t mean that local food and local food policy isn’t worth investigating. This week be sure to visit the Local Food Week website to learn more about local food in Ontario, and how you can support healthy and environmentally sustainable food consumption. If you’re on Twitter, check out ‘@loveONTfood‘ and keep an eye on the hashtag ‘#loveONTfood‘ throughout the week in order to follow along and join in the conversation about local food in the province.

Matteo Pirri is a Master of Public Policy Candidate at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy & Governance and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Public Policy & Governance Review. He likes food. 

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