Posts Tagged ‘local food’

Why does Waterloo Region need a food charter?

February 8, 2013

Before I started working at the Emergency Food Hamper program, I was very passionate about and involved with local food initiatives. I love community gardening and urban agriculture, going to the farmer’s market, and supporting local farmers. I’m still passionate about all of these things, but more and more I’m noticing that people on low income often don’t have the luxury of supporting local or organic food initiatives. Local and/or organic food is often more expensive and less convenient to purchase and prepare than conventional or processed food from the grocery store. I started doing research on the price of nutritious food versus how much a family makes on Ontario Works or even working a minimum wage job. I started to doubt whether supporting affordable nutritious food for people on low income and supporting local farmers were even compatible goals.


Because of my change in perspective, I was very interested when the Waterloo Region Food Roundtable, a group of citizens and people in the food industry who talk about food issues in the region, drafted a food charter. Waterloo Region Public Health started the roundtable in 2005, and their mission is to champion a vibrant and healthy local food system. They do this through networking and policy-making. 18 people sit on the roundtable and are from a variety of sectors, from the local farming community, to advocates for those living on low income, to academics and public health professionals. The idea is that if you get many people who involved in the local food system together around a table, you can have better conversations about local food issues leading to more sustainable and comprehensive food policies.



Community Gardening

August 2, 2012

On Thursdays during the summer, I have been working all day at Sunnydale Community Centre. There are a number of things I regularly do here at this vibrant and joyful place.

Around 11:30am on Thursdays, Anton usually arrives with a big work van full of food that we have gotten donated to us from the Food Bank or Loblaws. The food is set on 2 tables out front of the Centre, and within minutes the area surrounding the Community Centre turns into a hopping marketplace. Residents from the community come to collect food for themselves and/or their family, never lacking in lots of chit chat and community-building.

Something else I was introduced to a few weeks ago was the Community Garden that is on the outskirts of the Community Centre property. Eight cultures are represented in this ten-plot garden. Families from Vietnam, Canada, Bangladesh, Lao, Russia, Ukraine, United States and Iraq all have plots to grow food that they enjoy and that is important to them. Residents share this food with one another, and also tend to each other’s plots from time to time. It is so fascinating! I love seeing the variety of cultural and ethnic foods growing locally and organically. I love how proud people are to share their culture in the form of food they can grow.

Learning about and seeing the community garden in bloom has made me curious to research and share information about the process of growing and maintaining a community garden. Here is some information I’ve found:

What is a community garden?

  • People come together to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers
  • Run by churches, community agencies, clubs, neighbourhood associations

What are the benefits of a community garden?

  • Provides recreational gardening and activity for people
  • Provides fresh fruits and vegetables to individuals and families, some of whom may not regularly have access to such food
  • Reduces green house gases since the food is grown locally and not transported
  • Individuals of all cultures and ages can garden in a community garden; this reduces age and cultural barriers and allows people to learn from and share with each other
  • Educates people on how to grow and harvest foods that they enjoy to eat
  • Creates community among people with a common goal in mind

To learn more about community gardens, visit:

  • Community Garden Council of Waterloo Region

I have also been researching about different types of community gardens, and how to make a community garden more accessible to those with more restricted mobility. Stay tuned for a post devoted to barrier-free community gardening.

If you ate today…. thank a farmer!

July 27, 2010

Summer is here with full force, and there is a lot to choose from at the busy farmers markets and roadside produce stands all across the region.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately who have been making full use of the locally produced Buy Local Buy Fresh maps to pick up flowers, potatoes, corn and other seasonal goodies for their table.

For those who lack the income to put food on their tables, places like us exist to help address some of those needs, where possible.   People receiving food from us often thank us profusely for the service we provide, but we’re really just facilitating the generosity of their neighbours.  We don’t grow the food or earn the money to purchase it.  We just work to receive, sort and ultimately honour the generosity of others by ensuring that it goes to the people who need it.

This week has seen a tremendous amount of produce come to us from a number of local farmers and groups.  The Elmira Produce Auction has shared zucchini and cucumbers.  Jay West Wholesale Produce has donated beans, greens and peppers.  A farm in the Milton area donated potatoes, lettuce, greens like kale and spinach as well as zucchini and fresh herbs.  And to top it all off (so far!) Trevor Herrle of Herrle’s Country Farm Market shared an overflowing tote of corn and sweet potatoes with us this morning! Through the magic of twitter here they are:

From the fields to the back of our truck! Another great donation from Herrle's.

The corn is already on our food distribution line beside the beans and potatoes, finding it’s way into hampers as I type this up.  The sweet potatoes are now in boxes hanging out with the cucumbers at our hamper “window”, and hamper packers are offering them as an extra item to everyone getting food today.

At the best of times, you always need to remember where your food comes from.  But when things are looking grim, we’re all very fortunate that people locally are thinking of others, and sharing what they can with those in need.  For all of us here at the Food Hamper Program, it’s humbling to see the variety and quantity that comes our way.