Food Matters is a column addressing a variety of relevant topics concerning the food system in Simcoe County, as identified by the Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Charter. Topics may include: healthy eating, food access, and hunger; food and skills development; farming, the environment, and farmland protection; food and economic development; education and employment; and food and culture.
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Supporting Growth and Sustainability in Simcoe County's Agri-Food Sector
Published September 2016
The Food Partners Alliance, through its Food and Agriculture Charter, supports the principles of long term economic growth and prosperity as well as agricultural sustainability. Locally and abroad, our farms provide more than just the food we need – they provide industry and opportunity. And in order for advanced and industrialized countries such as Canada to be able to feed its communities and indeed world populations, we know that it's necessary to enhance opportunities for local farms and agri-businesses in order to ensure the very future of these farming and agri-businesses. This provides a sustainable food system and indeed promotes economic growth.
For example, local food and agriculture-related businesses, both large and small scale, produce, store, package, promote, sell and deliver their products locally, nationally and internationally. This supports our local agricultural economy and generates spin-off commerce.
Today there are over 1,500 farms operating in Simcoe County, each of which contributes to ensuring a sustainable food system. There are also more than 16,000 businesses in Simcoe County, many working in the agri-food sector. As Canadians, we want the economic benefit of these farms and agri-businesses right here. From a healthcare perspective, we are healthier when we eat locally produced foods.
Simcoe County has an incredibly diverse range of traditional and organic agricultural products in all of Ontario. Among its unique offerings, county producers grow a wide variety of vegetables and fruits as well as meat, game and fish products including beef, goat, duck, fowl, and fish.
Our region produces some of Canada's best offerings for maple-syrup and maple-based products, fresh honey, and dairy products. One of Simcoe County's newest yields is the region's emergence as a leader in micro-brewing and beverage development. A list of local breweries can be found by visiting www.saintsandsinnerstrail.com.
Not surprisingly, Simcoe County is home to a vast array of food processors with leaders in the field such as Leadbetter Foods, and Fresh Mix, both of which operate alongside smaller-scale producers.
Simcoe County entrepreneurs continue to seek opportunities for increasing food production in both rural and urban areas and to support increased educational opportunities to learn more about the agicultural sector. This region clearly the place to be when it comes to food, agri-business and taking new food opportunties to market.
Bringing Communities Together Through the Celebration of Local Food Published May 2016
Simcoe County has a rich agricultural heritage. The region is home to close knit communities that have historically been brought together through events and shared experiences that celebrate local food and culture. This is particularly true with the vast number of farmers markets that are available through the County. These markets welcome residents and those visitors to take part in immersing oneself in its rich history of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Francophone and other early settlement communities, while encouraging experiences that highlight new customs, cultures, traditions and talents related to food and agriculture.
The Food Partners Alliance (FPA) works closely with partnered organizations in promoting the importance of local food within the County while celebrating its diverse populations coming together to build a strong community.
There is a broad spectrum of food and agricultural events and initiatives offered in Simcoe County. These experiences are uniquely celebrated and provide the opportunity for people to come together and enjoy the best of what our region has to offer.
Simcoe County Farm Fresh is a partnered organization that works with the FPA. They promote and advocate local food, production, process, distribution and consumption for the purpose of sustaining the local food system in Simcoe County. This summer they will host its 9th Annual Savour Simcoe, showcasing offerings of locally produced food and drink created by talented chefs. The event will be taking place on Sunday, August 28th, 2016 from 12:00pm – 4:00pm at the Simcoe County Museum located at 1151 Highway 26, Minesing, Ontario. For more information about this event visit:
"We work with Multicultural Organizations throughout Simcoe County to celebrate our rich and diverse history of Agriculture that includes Huronia Historical Parks, Discovery Harbour, and the Simcoe County Museum to promote our local food supply and celebrate the partnerships within the community. Savour Simcoe is a great example of community building through the celebration of food and culture," said Crystal Stokes, Marketing Coordinator for Simcoe county Farm Fresh.
Savour Simcoe is just one example of the many events and celebrations occurring in Simcoe County this summer that promotes our tremendous local agri-food sector.
For more information on the Food Partners Alliance Visit www.fpa.simcoe.ca.
For more information on Simcoe County Farm Fresh's Savour Simcoe Event visit www.simcoecountyfarmfresh.ca/savoursimcoe.
Working Together for Equal Access to Food Published March 2016
The Food Partners Alliance (FPA) works to support the implementation of the Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Charter while providing leadership to build a sustainable and equitable food system.
As part of the Charter, equal access to food is a key principle that the Alliance hopes to guide and encourage community partners to implement. Equal access to food refers to the basic right of all people to have access to healthy and good quality food that is personally-acceptable and provides adequate nutrients to sustain the dietary needs of every individual, regardless of social and economic status.
Food must be affordable for consumers and producers to ensure food security and food system stability. Partners within the community have assisted to ensure that members within the community have access to local foods by removing physical and financial barriers. This has been done by increasing access to places where people can buy, grow or otherwise obtain healthy foods while promoting healthy eating.
"Wasaga Beach Community Garden is an incredible vehicle to help reduce isolation amongst community members and generate new friendships while improving health," says Courtney O'Neill, Registered Dietitian for the South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre regarding one of the many initiatives the organization leads in providing greater equal access to food. "At the Centre we [also] purchase a monthly Good Food Box so members within the community can access vegetables and fruits for free."
O'Neil has been recognized by her peers in the agri-food sector through the 2015 Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Champion Awards, where she received the Community Appreciation Award for Improving Food Access.
Earlier this month, The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) celebrated Food Freedom Day in recognition of the date by which the average Canadian will have earned enough income to pay for his or her grocery bill for 2016. The awareness day also aimed to bring awareness to the impact of increases in food prices on day-to-day budgets. It is estimated that in 2015, Canadians spent 11 per cent of their disposable income on food, compared to 10.4 per cent in 2014.
Equal Access to food is an important topic within the greater umbrella of food security and it is important that the community continues to work together to help ensure that our residents have access to food.
"When Simcoe County residents with lived experience of poverty were engaged through the Voices of Poverty Project, they had identified that access to food was one of the greatest difficulties while experiencing poverty," says Trevor McAlmont, Program Supervisor, Community Services, County of Simcoe.
By providing greater equal access to food, we, as a community, can reduce hunger and help reduce poverty.