Ontario's Local Food Report
Tastes of Home
PDF Version -
Table of Contents
- Minister's Message
- 2016-17 in Review
- Ontario's Local Food Strategy
- Why Local Food Matters
- The Local Food Act, 2013
- Increasing Local Food
- Boosting Local Food Access
- Growing Ontario's
Local Food Options
- Local Food - A World
This year marks Canada and Ontario's 150th birthday
- an occasion to reflect on all that we as a country, and province,
have accomplished together over the past century and a half. Ontario's
farmers have made an indispensable contribution to our tremendous
progress and this is truly something to celebrate.
Since the mid-19th century, Ontario has changed significantly
- we have gone from a rural population base to a province where
the vast majority of Ontarians live and work in urban areas. As
we became more urban, we came to lose our direct connection to agriculture.
I am pleased to see that this is changing, thanks in large part
to the local food movement.
Across the province - farmers, processors, consumers and community
groups are collaborating to increase consumption of foods grown,
produced and made here. Ontarians know that there truly is no taste
And by choosing local, we keep dollars in Ontario. The agri-food
industry is already an economic force, generating more than $36
billion in annual GDP and supporting 790,000 jobs in the province.
It is also a high-potential growth sector.
To help realize this potential, the government adopted the Local
Food Strategy in 2013 that aims to increase the consumption of local
food in Ontario. We have backed our words with dollars, investing
$6.3 million in 133 local food initiatives in 2016-17.
In 2016, following consultation with our agri-food partners and
local food champions, I established our second series of targets
under our pioneering Local Food Act, which focus on increasing
access to local food.
You are reading our third annual Local Food Report. This year's
report focuses on the work being carried out by our government and
our partners to bring more local food to Ontarians' tables. We also
look at farmers, food processors and organizations that are expanding
choice for Ontario consumers with local food products that reflect
the diversity of this great province.
This year, we are also celebrating the 40th anniversary
of our banner Foodland Ontario program, which has been building
awareness and enthusiasm for Ontario food since 1977.
As we celebrate Ontario's 150th birthday, I salute the
farmers and food processors that have made immense contributions
to building our province up, and who every day are helping consumers'
access "Made-in-Ontario" food products. Here's to another
150 years of making Ontario stronger!
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
2016-17 in Review
The agri-food sector in Ontario is made up of hundreds of thousands
of people: farmers, food and beverage processors, distributors,
retailers and restaurateurs. Within those ranks are countless local
food champions who drove the local food movement forward in 2016/2017.
The Government of Ontario was there to support and partner with
a number of great local food providers to expand opportunities for
the people of Ontario.
Throughout the 2016/2017 fiscal year, the Government of Ontario:
- Committed more than $1.8 million in funding through Growing
Forward 2 to 47 projects by producers, processors, organizations
and collaborations to support local food.
- Invested over $3.8 million to 77 projects through the Greenbelt
Fund's Local Food Investment Fund.
- Invested over $660,000 to five local food projects through the
Rural Economic Development program.
- 182 farmers' markets registered with Farmers' Markets Ontario.
- 300 members of the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association.
- 82 per cent of Ontario shoppers can identify Ontario-grown fruits
and vegetables in grocery stores.
- Almost 80 per cent of principal grocery shoppers incorporate
locally grown food in at least one meal per week, while 50 per
cent eat local food in at least one meal a day.
Ontario's Local Food Strategy
In 2013, the government developed a Local Food Strategy to increase
consumer awareness and consumption of local food in Ontario. That
commitment to local food is supported by the Local Food Act,
Consulting with farmers, food and beverage processors, retailers,
foodservice providers, not-for-profit organizations and consumers,
the government established three core objectives for the Local Food
- Increased consumer awareness and education -
so Ontario consumers are more aware of, highly value and choose
more local food;
- Better access to local food - so local food
is easily identifiable and widely available through a range of
- Expanded local food production - so Ontario's
agri-food sector is more competitive, productive and responsive
to consumer demand.
Our province is making great gains thanks to the Local Food Strategy
and under the Local Food Act, the government publishes
this report every year to share progress with Ontarians.
For more information on the government's Local Food Strategy, visit
Why Local Food Matters
The advantages of buying local food are enormous. Ontario's agri-food
sector offers consumers an immense variety of delicious, nutritious
foods that underpin the diversity, quality of life and economy of
Ontario's agri-food sector includes a value chain of farmers, processors,
distributors, retailers, restaurants and other food service organizations
working to provide quality products to Ontarians. Every day, nearly
800,000 Ontarians wake up to work in this dynamic, exciting and
We depend on the creativity and hard work of Ontario's 52,000 family
farms, to ensure we have a ready supply of tasty, wholesome foods.
From apples to quinoa, and cattle to fish, Ontario grows, harvests
and makes more than 200 diverse foods and agri-food products.
Agri-Food - An Economic Powerhouse
Ontario's powerhouse agri-food sector generates $36.4 billion a
year in Gross Domestic Product. What's more, the agri-food sector
has exciting growth prospects. In 2013, Premier Kathleen Wynne challenged
the sector to double its growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs
by 2020. The sector is on track to meet these targets with $2.2
billion in GDP added to the economy and more than 42,000 jobs created
since the challenge was issued.
When we buy local food, we are helping to build a strong and resilient
agri-food sector that not only feeds us but strengthens our economy
by keeping jobs and dollars in communities across our province.
Bring Home the World
Ontario's agri-food sector is a reflection of Ontario's diversity.
Consumer values and needs are evolving, leading to expanding demand
for organic products and artisanal goods, products with added health
benefits and globally-inspired specialty foods. Ontario's agri-food
sector is responding to this demand.
Food is integral to every culture and Ontario's agri-food sector
is working diligently to satisfy the tastes of Ontarians with roots
from around the globe. Whether it's growing bok choy, making goat
cheese or preparing small-batch kimchi, World Foods made in Ontario
are rapidly gaining momentum across the province.
This report will highlight the scope and impact of World Foods
by presenting a small sample of efforts currently underway in the
The Ontario government is helping provide the agri-food sector
with the supports needed to seize the opportunities emerging from
consumer trends at home and abroad.
Of course, Ontario does not - and due to our climate, cannot -
produce all the food our people need or want. However, we can produce
much more of what is consumed here. A high priority for the government
is to encourage consumers to put more emphasis on local food - food
grown, harvested or produced in Ontario or made from Ontario ingredients.
The government is also working to encourage the sector to produce
more of the foods Ontario residents demand. This vision to have
more Ontario consumers enjoying local food more often - and in more
places - is broadly shared. Local food is a movement that extends
far and wide and has energized action across Ontario - from consumers,
entrepreneurs, governments and established businesses.
In particular, for many Ontarians, local food may not reflect their
traditions or their tastes, requiring imports. This reflects lost
opportunities for Ontario businesses and workers. The solution is
to enhance the availability of local food that aligns with the diversity
of Ontario's population. Bottom line: the more home-grown-and-made
food Ontarians choose, the stronger our province will become.
To that end, the government has launched a conversation with Ontarians
called Bring Home the World to get a better sense of the
demand for and supply of World Foods in the province. Feedback from
this consultation will help inform how the government can support
growth in this exciting segment of local food. For more information,
The Local Food Act, 2013
The first of its kind in Canada when introduced in 2013, the Local
Food Act has been instrumental in supporting the government's
Local Food Strategy. Some highlights of what has been achieved as
a result of the Act include:
- The government proclaimed Local Food Week, which takes place
the week beginning on the first Monday in June each year.
- Since 2014, farmers have been able to get a tax credit for donations
of agricultural products they make to community food organizations,
such as food banks.
- The minister has established goals around local food literacy
and local food access, which are helping to engage the agri-food
sector and consumers to support the Local Food Strategy.
The following sections of this report summarize some of the success
stories and Local Food Champions that have supported progress on
the Local Food Strategy in 2016-17.
Increasing Local Food Literacy
Local food literacy is an objective of the Ontario government's
Local Food Strategy, with three aspirational goals identified under
the Local Food Act that are meant to inspire the government's
local food partners to action:
- Goal 1: Increase the number of Ontarians who
know what local foods are available.
- Goal 2: Increase the number of Ontarians who
know how and where to obtain local foods.
- Goal 3: Increase the number of Ontarians who
prepare local food meals for family and friends, and make local
food more available through food service providers.
The Ontario government supports programs and works with partners
to improve local food literacy among Ontarians.
Foodland Ontario Builds Food Literacy
Local food literacy has long been the objective of the Foodland
Ontario program delivered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and
Rural Affairs. Since 1977, Foodland Ontario has worked with the
agri-food sector - producers, processors and retailers - to build
awareness and enthusiasm for Ontario foods.
Over 1,400 producers, retailers, and food service operators are
using the Foodland Ontario logo to promote and identify Ontario
food products in the marketplace. In 2016-17, the program distributed
more than 7.5 million pieces of point-of-sale materials to grocery
stores, enabling consumers to easily identify Ontario-produced fresh
foods. Radio, television, and digital advertisements reached a combined
audience of more than 45 million. And over 100 special events supported
by Foodland Ontario attracted more than 1.2 million participants,
raising the profile of Ontario food.
Celebrating Local Food Innovation in Retail
Foodland Ontario salutes its retail partners for exceptional efforts
to raise consumer awareness about the diversity of foods produced
and processed grown in the province. The annual Foodland Ontario
Retailer Awards - underway since 1987 - are the retail sector's
prime competition for excellence in food retailing display and promotion
in support of local Ontario produce.
In 2016, 60 retail stores and three retail grocery banners received
awards for their new ideas and innovative in-store promotions that
help Ontario consumers recognize and buy more locally-grown food.
Find out which stores had winning entries by visiting: www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/foodland-ontario-retailer-awards-winners-0.
Growing Reliance on Social Media
When Foodland Ontario began, there were no smart phones and no
Internet. Today, Foodland Ontario is reaching more and more consumers
through digital platforms and is active on five social media channels:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. The Facebook
page was created in 2011 and has grown to an online community of
over 171,800 followers. The Twitter profile, set up in 2008, now
has over 29,800 followers. Together these five online communities
resulted in over 47 million consumer impressions and over 236,000
engagements (direct consumer comments, reactions and shares) in
During Local Food Week - the first week of June - Foodland Ontario
hosted an online Twitter Party and also a photo contest. The Twitter
Party generated 5,500 tweets from 630 contributors in one hour,
reaching over 1.4 million users. The Show Your Love for #loveONTfood
photo contest attracted 500 entries.
Foodland Ontario Marks 40th Anniversary
In 2017, Foodland Ontario marks its 40th birthday and
the province's agri-food sector has plenty to celebrate. Over the
last 40 years, the program has partnered with thousands of Ontario
producers, processors and retailers to help promote the good things
that are grown and made in our province.
Four decades of work have built the influential Foodland Ontario
brand that draws consumer attention to local food options. Year
after year, Foodland Ontario has achieved consumer recognition of
more than 90 per cent among Ontario's principal grocery shoppers.
As a result, local food has high visibility in the Ontario marketplace
and consumers better understand the rich diversity of foods produced
No program could last 40 years without evolving, and Foodland Ontario
has grown with the needs and expectations of the sector and consumers.
From an initial focus on fruits and vegetables, the scope widened
in 2008 to cover all Ontario-produced food - meat, dairy, eggs,
honey, maple syrup, and processed foods where the majority of primary
ingredients are sourced from within this province.
Consumer tastes have also shifted as Ontario's population has become
more diverse and the range of products supported by Foodland Ontario
has expanded accordingly - from bitter melon to bok choy, from cheddar
to paneer, and from omega pork to goat meat.
Throughout the year, Foodland Ontario will be holding public awareness
events to highlight its 40th anniversary, with a focus
on Local Food Week in June and Agriculture Week in October. To stay
up to date, connect with all Foodland Ontario's channels by visiting
Highview Food & Drink
Ontario's Best Veal Parmigiana Sandwich
Highview Food & Drink in Southampton offers Ontario's Best
Veal Sandwich 2016 as determined by a province-wide contest organized
by Veal Farmers of Ontario. Highview was one of three finalists
- selected from among 500 online nominations of 97 favourite sandwich
spots - to prepare their entries at the Gourmet Food & Wine
Expo in Toronto in November 2016.
The competition, supported by a $35,000 grant from the Local Food
Investment Fund, was designed to generate excitement and promote
Ontario veal sales. It made a strong impact on both social and traditional
media, garnering more than 700,000 Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
impressions, as well as, earning a full page article in a major
newspaper chain and coverage in several community newspapers as
well as national and local radio coverage which altogether generated
more than 1.5 million earned media impressions.
Inspiring the Next Generation
The Ontario government is helping inspire youth to become the next
generation of agri-food leaders through its continued investment
in AgScape. AgScape is a charitable organization dedicated to providing
food literacy programs and resources to Ontario's educators and
students. Teachers can download tools to help incorporate agri-food
education into everyday lesson plans from grades one to 12.
In addition, AgScape's Teacher Ambassadors visit junior-to-high-school
classrooms to deliver lessons. During the 2015-16 school year, 27
Teacher Ambassadors delivered 156 lessons to 54 different schools
to educate and inspire youth and inform them about the vast array
of agri-food career opportunities available.
Ontario Tender Fruit Growers
Getting to Know Ontario's Tender Fruit
In 2016, the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers received a $120,000 grant
through the Local Food Investment Fund to work with major retailers
to increase awareness and knowledge of Ontario tender fruit. While
peaches are what usually comes to mind when thinking of Ontario
tender fruit, the campaign also promoted other locally-grown fruits
like nectarines, plums, table grapes, cherries, pears and apricots.
A Spring into Summer event kicked off the growing season by bringing
growers and retail partners together to learn about the timing and
size of the crop and the promotions planned. New marketing tools
included a total of 6,400 retail display bins delivered to major
As well, in-store sampling events and recipe demonstrations in
selected locations promoted Ontario peaches, pears and table grapes
and suggested options besides eating fresh fruit out of hand. The
awareness campaign contributed to a 4 per cent increase in the gross
value of fresh fruit crops in 2016 compared with the previous year.
Local Food Champion
Banners in Mandarin a First for Foodland Ontario
T&T Supermarket is Canada's largest Asian supermarket chain.
Headquartered in British Columbia, it has eight stores in Ontario
- seven in the Greater Toronto Area and one in Ottawa. In June 2016,
Foodland Ontario began providing merchandising materials to T&T
outlets to highlight Ontario-grown produce. Stores have built displays
featuring Ontario products and use Foodland Ontario materials to
promote the vegetables' origin.
To better reach many of T&T's customers, Foodland Ontario developed
bilingual banners - in traditional Mandarin and English - for T&T's
Ontario-grown bok choy and Asian greens selection. The eight-foot
banners represent Foodland Ontario's first merchandising materials
produced in a language other than English and French.
Local Food Champion
Growing Ontario's Global Profile
A strong position at home gives Ontario's agri-food sector a solid
base to expand globally translating into more jobs for the Ontario
economy. The first step is to increase awareness with international
customers of the range and quality of Ontario food products, and
with Ontario agri-food businesses of exciting global opportunities.
In November 2016, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
and the Minister of International Trade co-led Ontario's first Agri-Food
Trade Mission to India to attract new investment and continue to
grow the agri-food sector globally. Building on momentum from the
Premier's trade mission to India earlier in the year, the agri-food
mission promoted Ontario's value-added processed food, cutting-edge
technology - including dairy genetics - and economic opportunities
to more than 300 Indian companies and government officials. Twenty-one
delegates from 18 Ontario agri-food businesses took part in the
The Ontario government will continue to promote the province's
agri-food sector as an opportunity for international investment
through its Growing Global strategy.
Local Food Champion
Local Food Investment Fund
In 2015, the Ontario government pledged $6 million over three years
to the Greenbelt Fund to support initiatives that align with Ontario's
Local Food Strategy.
This investment enables farmers, businesses and not-for-profits
to access a Local Food Investment Fund that helps increase the availability
of Ontario-grown-and-made food to be purchased and enjoyed across
the province. To date, $3.8 million has been allocated to 77 projects
to further local food literacy, access to local food, and local
food purchases by broader public sector organizations
Thanks to the success of the Local Food Investment Fund, the Ontario
government and the Greenbelt Fund are partnering in 2017-18 to invest
an additional $1 million into local food projects.
This report highlights several of the Local Food Champions who
have received funding through the Local Food Investment Fund to
enhance local food literacy and accessibility across the province.
Boosting Local Food Access
Targets Set under Local Food Act
On its own, increased awareness is not enough to expand consumption
of local food: local food choices must be made available to Ontarians
where they shop and dine. To improve consumer access, producer access
to local food markets must also be improved.
In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs worked
with its agri-food and local food partners to develop a series of
aspirational goals under the Local Food Act for increasing
access to local food.
More than 40 agri-food, health, education, Indigenous and civil
society organizations participated in consultations during the spring
and summer. Based on feedback from those consultations, the Minister
established the following food access goals in fall 2016:
- Goal 1: Increase opportunities for all Ontarians
to choose local food.
- Goal 2: Increase the variety of local food
offerings to celebrate the diversity of Ontario and its foods.
- Goal 3: Increase collaborations and strengthen
partnerships among producers, communities, and the public and
private sectors to enhance local food availability.
The following section highlights recent accomplishments across
the province and agri-food sector to improve local food access.
The agri-food sector continues to work with the Ontario government
to enhance local food availability across the province. Some key
highlights and results from the Ontario government's 2016-17 investments
in agri-food partners are presented below.
Direct Links between Farmers and Consumers
A province-wide association, Farmers' Markets Ontario (FMO), promotes
registered venues as places for Ontario consumers to buy locally
grown food direct from farmers. At last count there were 182 farmers'
markets registered with the association. Meanwhile, the Ontario
Farm Fresh Marketing Association fosters the direct farm sales industry,
such as pick-your-own and on-farm fruit and vegetable markets. Approximately
300 farmers belong to the group.
Ontario Student Nutrition Program
Connecting school children with local food has multiple benefits:
it helps students get the nutrition they need to get ready to learn;
it increases their food literacy skills; and it also strengthens
local economies by giving farm sales a boost.
Funded through the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the
Ontario Student Nutrition Program helped bring healthy meals and
snacks to more than 890,000 school students and 63 First Nations
communities during the 2015-16 school year. The program operates
in partnership with local partners - including parents, charities,
community organizations, corporate sponsors and some municipalities.
In fall 2016, updated nutrition guidelines were released to help
schools select nutritious foods and encourage the serving of food
grown or produced in Ontario. A 2015 survey of select volunteers
found that close to 60 per cent of the local programs choose Ontario
foods when they can.
Schools tailor the program to their own needs and interests. In
Timmins, for example, students at St. Paul School enjoyed a breakfast
of grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh local vegetables one morning
last spring. The switch from the usual oatmeal or cold cereal was
intended to broaden students' horizons about food choices and experiences.
"Grilled cheese is one of those breakfast items that really
gets the kids excited and part of the reason we chose it this morning
is that we wanted to break out of some of those stereotypes that
exist when it comes to thinking about breakfast in the morning,"
- Rena Keenan-Buhler, student nutrition program food and logistics
coordinator for the Timmins Branch of the Canadian Red Cross.
Child Nutrition Network of Haldimand & Norfolk
Farm to School - a Winning Partnership
The Child Nutrition Network of Haldimand & Norfolk supports
69 local Student Nutrition Programs. It relies heavily on its Farm
to School program to provide schools with access to fresh local
produce like apples, cucumbers, berries and cherry tomatoes.
As a supportive local partner, the Norfolk Fruit Growers Association
has dedicated an area within its warehouse to Student Nutrition
Programs. This is where local farmers can drop off their fresh product
to be picked up by volunteers and served at schools later that week.
West Lynn Public School in Simcoe is one of the many schools that
place online orders for local products each week through the program.
"My students as well as my own children love to smell
and taste the aroma of fresh cucumbers every Wednesday at West Lynn.
The cucumbers provided by our Farm to School program and cut by
the same grandparents of a couple of our students add great nutrition
to our students' lunches."
- Tonya Lesage, teacher and parent at West Lynn Public School
Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program
Delivered under the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the
Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program (NFVP) increases awareness
and consumption of fruits and vegetables among primary-to-junior
school students in northern and remote communities. The program
runs from January to June and provides no-cost fresh fruits and
vegetables - about 65 per cent from Ontario - twice a week in school,
combined with education in healthy eating and physical activity.
As of January 2016, the NFVP provided over two million servings
of fresh fruit and vegetables in three northern regions over the
course of the 20-week program, reaching over 36,500 students, including
over 6,600 Indigenous children, in 192 schools.
The program involves a partnership among three local health units
- Algoma Public Health, the Porcupine Health Unit and the Sudbury
and District Health Unit - and the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers'
Ontario's First Nations Health Action Plan, announced in May 2016,
includes expanding the NFVP to increase access to fresh fruit and
vegetables for approximately 40,000 more children, including 13,000
Community Food Program Donation Tax Credit
Ontario farmers have a long tradition of helping those in need.
Their generosity has inspired recent programs to meet urgent calls
by food banks for fresh food donations, beyond the usual non-perishable
To encourage farmers to produce more food for donation, the Ontario
government offers the Community Food Program Donation Tax Credit
to farmers who give agricultural products to community food programs,
such as food banks and student nutrition programs. Introduced in
2014, the tax credit helps ensure families in need have access to
healthy local food options.
Farm commodity organizations are also demonstrating generosity
to Ontarians in need. For example, the Beef Farmers of Ontario and
the Chicken Farmers of Ontario have partnered with the Ontario Association
of Food Banks. Since its launch in 2014, the beef program has provided
80,000 servings of fresh ground beef for Ontario families in need,
while the chicken program delivers about 175,000 kilograms of chicken
to food banks a year. As well, in 2016 Ontario Pork and its sector
partners donated nearly 27,000 kilograms of ground pork, enough
for more than 178,000 servings. And every year, the Egg Farmers
of Ontario contributes about 1.8 million eggs.
Local Line Inc.
Making Local Food Connections Online
Efficient distribution channels are essential for farmers to connect
with local food markets. Technology is playing a growing role in
enabling these links.
Local Line Inc. in Kitchener has developed an online platform that
makes it easier for restaurants and other food service locations
to put Ontario food on the menu. Launched in 2014, the system lets
chefs buy directly from growers without placing dozens of different
orders for meats, dairy products, grains, fruits or vegetables.
The site has brought together 230 registered buyers and suppliers
in Ontario, Calgary and select U.S. sites.
Recognizing the platform's contributions to growing Ontario's agri-food
sector, Local Line received a regional award in the Premier's Award
for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence competition in 2016.
Fresh from the Farm
Boosting Local Food - and Schools
Fresh from the Farm connects children and youth with farms by helping
schools raise funds through selling bundles of local fruits and
vegetables. Since the program began in 2013, 665 schools have participated
and families have bought almost $1.7 million in local apples, carrots,
onions, potatoes and more. That represents more than 8.9 million
individual servings of nutritious Ontario produce. As a result,
more than $868,000 has been returned to Ontario growers, and more
than $626,000 has been retained by Ontario schools.
In 2016, over $950,000 in local produce representing over 4.8 million
individual servings of Ontario fruits and vegetables were sold through
the program, engaging 371 schools across the province.
In 2016, Timmins Centennial Public School, part of the District
School Board of Ontario Northeast, participated in the program.
The school sold over $23,000 worth of produce, or 22,000 pounds
of Ontario fruit and vegetables - by far the most in the province.
Since schools keep 40 percent of sales, this means that Timmins
Centennial raised $9,500 for school programming.
What a great way to promote health, team-building and strengthen
Local Food Champion
Kiknedaasogamig Elementary School
Students Exploring Their Roots through Traditional Foods
Sixty-three First Nations across the province receive $4 million
in funding from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to support
breakfast or lunch programs in their communities.
In 2015, First Nations were invited to develop plans to deliver
the program in ways that addressed the unique needs of their communities.
Many incorporated traditional foods and activities to help celebrate
and preserve knowledge, language and culture amongst their youth.
During the 2015-16 school year, Kiknedaasogamig Elementary School
on the Neyaashiinigmiing reserve of the Chippewas of Nawash explored
the themes of traditional food and food preservation.
The primary grades learned about wild rice in their Ojibway Language
Class. Partnering with the Student Nutrition Program, their teacher
had students prepare a dried soup mix to take home for their families
- made up of dried herbs, spices and veggies as well as barley and
organic wild rice. The students followed the recipe and used their
math skills to measure the proper quantities of each ingredient,
which were placed in mason jars.
"The students absolutely loved this activity and were extremely
proud to take dinner home to their families,"
- Deidre Millar, the School & Community Nutrition Project Coordinator
Local Food Champion
Roots to Harvest
School Cafeteria Menu Rebuilt
Through a $45,000 Local Food Investment Fund grant, Roots to Harvest
has collaborated with the Lakehead District School Board to launch
the Get Fresh Café at Westgate Collegiate & Vocational
Institute in Thunder Bay.
The pilot project is transforming the traditional high school cafeteria
model. Instead of buying pre-prepared food that often costs more,
the Get Fresh Café uses fresh ingredients sourced as locally
as possible and devotes extra resources to making more food from
whole ingredients. The cafeteria menu has been rebuilt to include
and feature more than a dozen Ontario-grown produce and meat items
made into dishes like salads and wraps. The items are procured through
local distributors including Belluz Farms, Brule Creek Flour, The
Squash Queen, Mile Hill Farms, and B&B Farms.
New flavours, combined with seasonal ingredients, have won the
students' enthusiasm - with Get Fresh Café recording the
highest gross revenue among all Lakehead Public School cafeterias.
And 80 per cent of students eating there recognize that the food
is grown in Ontario.
Local Food Champion
Ontario Fresh at SUBWAY® Restaurants
Burnac Produce, a wholesale distributor, has partnered with SUBWAY®
restaurants, the sandwich shop chain, to bring Ontario produce to
the chain's 1,300 Ontario locations.
Burnac received a $90,000 grant through the Local Food Investment
Fund for this innovative project to supply Ontario-grown tomatoes,
cucumbers, peppers and onions to the restaurants during the 2016
harvest season. Buyers worked closely with farmers throughout the
planning, planting, growing and harvesting stages to ensure SUBWAY®'s
requirements were met. As well, a promotional campaign using Foodland
Ontario materials highlighted the availability of local produce
at the chain's locations.
The project doubled the amount of locally grown produce served
in SUBWAY® restaurants in Ontario last year, with Burnac buying
over 1 million more pounds of local produce than in 2015.
"Funding from the Greenbelt Fund was able to help Burnac
execute the project internally and with growers to develop and source
product and educate growers. It also helped to support the marketing
campaign executed by Subway." - David Capobianco, Burnac
Local Food Champion
New College Procurement Model Emerging
Food services at Ontario's 24 colleges of applied arts and technology
serve roughly 237,000 students each day and record $65 million in
annual sales. With a $100,000 Local Food Investment Fund grant,
Mohawk College is leading a two-year effort to develop the first-ever
local food procurement model for Ontario colleges.
The research phase has been completed and a report released in
March 2017 highlighted barriers to and opportunities for local food
procurement. For example, lack of local food literacy among college
food service and other staff was found to be a key area to strengthen.
Soon pilot projects will be launched to test evidence-based solutions
emerging from the findings. The research and pilot projects will
guide the development of a local food procurement framework that
will provide a set of tools that can be adopted by all 24 Ontario
colleges. The final framework is to be released in early 2018.
Mohawk also conducted a province-wide survey of Ontario college
students to gauge their demand for local food. Of those surveyed,
84 per cent felt that it was important for their college to support
sustainability by purchasing and serving local food on campus.
"Increasing the amount of local food served on Ontario
college campuses is an important opportunity for colleges to better
serve their students and communities. The support we have received
from the Local Food Investment Fund has opened the door to an evolution
of college foodservices in support of Ontario-grown food."
- Alan Griffiths, Manager of Sustainability, Mohawk College
Local Food Champion
Metro Ontario Inc.
Supermarket Chain Stepping Up Local Food Purchases
During the 2016 Local Food Week, 260 Metro and Food Basics grocery
stores in the province launched a Local Purchasing Policy that is
expected to increase the chain's purchases of Ontario-grown-and-made
The company states that the policy reflects its commitment to make
it easier for consumers to find the products they are seeking, and
which meet their needs in terms of freshness, variety and value.
Metro is collaborating closely with Foodland Ontario and other associations
that promote Ontario products.
Metro already sources many fresh Ontario foods such as produce,
lamb and organic pork and the new policy will enable many more Ontario
farmers and food processors to supply their products to the chain.
This will enhance local food availability for Ontario consumers.
"Metro is proud of the strong commitment we have made
to invest in Ontario by buying local food products. It's important
to our customers to be able to buy local food products and it's
important to Metro to contribute to economic growth in the regions
that we do business. Our partnership with Foodland Ontario been
critical to delivering on our commitment."
- Andre Gagne, Vice President, Fresh Merchandizing, Metro Ontario
Local Food Champion
Fresh City Farms
Urban Farmers on Growth Track
Based in Toronto's Downsview Park, Fresh City Farms is Canada's
largest commercial city farm. Two dozen member farmers grow produce
organically on two acres and in a greenhouse and sell food and meals
through an online market for delivery in Toronto and elsewhere in
With Local Food Investment Fund support of $100,000, Fresh City
has been building its capacity to process and package local and
organic foods that today's consumers demand. In December 2016, the
company moved into a 20,000 sq.ft. packing and production facility
and shortly thereafter launched series of value-added food items,
including prepared meals, salad jars, recipe kits and smoothies.
The plant processes local ingredients from Fresh City's own farms
as well as more than 100 other growers.
Fresh City now serves 4,000 homes in the GTA and anticipates a
nearly 40 per cent revenue increase by early 2018. This growth will
translate into thousands of local and healthy meals delivered weekly
to GTA homes, creating 20 jobs.
Growing Ontario's Local Food Options
As Ontarians increasingly choose local food options, it is important
for the province's farmers, food processors, retailers and food
service organizations to expand and diversify their supply of locally
grown, harvested and made products to meet the changing preferences
of Ontario consumers.
Through key initiatives - such as Growing Forward 2, the Jobs and
Prosperity Fund, the Local Food Investment Fund, the Eastern Ontario
and Southwestern Ontario Development Funds, and the Wine and Grape
Strategy - the Ontario government is investing in the province's
agri-food sector to encourage innovation, productivity and growth.
Several of these investments in turn are creating new opportunities
for Ontario consumers to savour new tastes, get more Ontario fruits
and vegetables year-round, and find the products they like locally-made.
Funding Programs Nurture Growth
- The government invested over $660,000 in five local food projects
through the Rural Economic Development program to increase economic
competiveness, innovation and diversification within Ontario's
- Growing Forward 2 - a federal-provincial-territorial initiative
that encourages innovation, competitiveness, market development,
adaptability and industry sustainability in Canada's agri-food
sector - committed more than $1.8 million to 47 projects by producers,
processors, organizations and collaborations to support local
Premier's Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence
Innovation is key to competing in the global marketplace. The annual
Premier's Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognize the
valuable work carried out by the agri-food sector to improve existing
products, develop new ones, pioneer new techniques, create jobs
and drive economic growth.
Fifty winners were recognized in 2016, which marked the 10th
anniversary of the awards program. Dairy Quality Inc. of Newmarket
won the Premier's Award for their breakthrough technology that helps
keep dairy cows' health in check and ensures the highest milk quality
Contact with nearly 170 previous winners of the Premier's Awards
for Agri-food Innovation Excellence during 2016 highlighted key
trends. Since receiving the award:
- 74% have expanded their operations
- 71% have created jobs
- 69% have made investments in machinery, equipment, infrastructure
- 63% have expanded markets or entered new ones
- 78% have improved profitability or increased sales
- 74% are working on new ideas or projects.
Local Food Innovators
A decade of the Premier's Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence
has generated some exciting stories in Ontario's local food sector.
The 2016 awards proved to be no exception. Here are a few examples:
Cold Snap Pears - "Winter's Favourite Fruit"
By late fall, local pears usually have to be replaced by imports
in Ontario grocery stores. That's beginning to change with the arrival
of Cold Snap pears, developed in the 1970s by Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada, and only just recently making their way to
market. Niagara-based Vineland Growers' Co-operative Ltd. licensed
the growing rights in 2011 and in fall 2015 the first fruit from
this variety hit stores.
The main selling advantage of Cold Snap pears is their longer
storage life, allowing them to be kept in atmosphere-controlled
storage as late as February or March. Their firm texture, sweet
taste and large size appeal to consumers, while growers like their
The first crop sold out by early January 2016 and about 1 million
pears were harvested the next year and sold to major retailers across
Ontario and Quebec. Sales are expected to reach almost 2 million
pounds by 2018 and 4 million by 2024. Vineland researchers calculate
that Cold Snap will create a net benefit to growers of $51.5
million over a 14-year period, compared with a standard pear like
The government contributed to this success through $299,000 in
Growing Forward 2 funding, awarded to Vineland Growers in 2015,
to retrofit cooler storage areas in the first major application
of controlled atmosphere technology to Ontario-grown pears.
Shrimp Now Grow in Ontario
Ontario seafood lovers can now find home-grown shrimp, thanks to
the vision of the Cocchio family in Campbellford.
Inspired by reports of indoor aquaculture in the United States,
the Cocchios set out to become Ontario's first shrimp producers.
They researched and toured operations in Maryland and Indiana, secured
an aquaculture licence and worked with the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency to import feed and shrimp larvae.
They then converted one of their hog barns into a shrimp facility
with 16 cement saltwater tanks. Although initial survival rates
were low, the Cocchios fine-tuned their system and can now produce
136 kilograms of Pacific white shrimp a week. The new food product
means new value chain opportunities for local industries, like equipment
manufacturers, hatcheries, and processing and packaging facilities.
In homage to their pioneering roots in the province, the Cocchios
named their company First Ontario Shrimp Inc.
Northern Farming Proves Viable
Mike Visser dreamed of starting his own farm, but he couldn't afford
the land prices in Southern Ontario. So in 2012 he moved to land
just west of Thunder Bay, where he found an unsatisfied demand for
locally produced meat and a plentiful supply of bull calves from
the dairy farm sector.
He began with four calves, marketing his veal through the Thunder
Bay Country Market, local stores, restaurants and farm gate sales.
Now the operation has grown to 145 calves and also includes meat
rabbits. Through his My Pride Farm, Visser is proving that cattle
farming in Northern Ontario is both possible and profitable.
New Ice Cream Alternative
Each week, Oat & Mill Ltd. located in Smiths Falls produces
up to 300 litres of frozen oat-based ice cream alternative in a
variety of flavours like peanut-butter-jelly-chocolate chunk, butter
pecan cheesecake and creamy pumpkin spice. They started by selling
out every weekly batch at farmers' markets, local events and online.
While many alternatives to dairy-based ice cream rely on ingredients
like nuts, soy, or coconut, Oat & Mill uses Canadian-milled
oats. In doing so, they have created a market for local growers
and a healthier alternative for lactose-intolerant consumers. Oat
& Mill is now expanding across Ontario in stores with their
fun flavours and delicious take on oats.
A Truly Homemade Beer
On their 232-year-old family farm just outside Kingston, Daniel
and Ivan MacKinnon converted a century barn into a brewing facility,
which opened in spring 2014.
The operation produces beet-infused ales, German wheat beers and
wild peppermint stouts, all made with their own hops, wheat and
malting barley. To their knowledge, no other commercial brewery
in Canada grows the majority of its ingredients on site. And in
fall 2016, they went even further to introduce a 100 per cent home-grown
Local is cool: in its first full year MacKinnon Brothers Brewing
Co. reached consumers through 16 LCBO stores and 100 draught taps.
Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference
Eastern Ontario Event Builds Capacity
Held each year since 2011, the Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference
has grown into the region's premier annual local food event. It
has become a key forum for staff from the Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs to engage with farmers, food processors,
distributors, retailers, local-food organizations and local governments.
For the 2016 gathering, the ministry partnered with the cities
of Belleville and Quinte West to host the two-day gathering in Belleville
in November. With the theme of "Mission: Resilience",
the agenda focused on climate change and other global issues presenting
both challenges and opportunities for the agri-food sector.
The event featured a half-day tour of six local food producers
and businesses by more than 50 participants, a trade show with over
20 exhibitors and a full-day conference with 178 delegates. In a
follow-up survey, more than 95 per cent of those responding said
they had made new connections at the event and 47 per cent indicated
they are considering business expansion as a result of the conference
Greenbelt Farmers' Market Network
Matching Investment Program Creates Production Opportunities
In order to help local growers meet demand at farmers' markets,
FoodShare Toronto is to launch a new matching funds program, thanks
in part to a $45,000 Local Food Investment Fund grant.
The goal of the program is to increase economic opportunities for
local farmers and provide consumers with more product diversity.
The program offers farmers $500 to $2,000 in matching funds to introduce
new products, scale up, extend their growing season and improve
quality and value.
To date, the program is helping 32 farms with projects such as
installing a greenhouse, building a cheese aging room or constructing
a commercial kitchen. The investments are expected to increase sales
at farmers' markets by $1.3 million over two years.
Local Food Champion
Expanding Halal Meat Production
Another processor that is also expanding to meet the growing demand
for halal cuisine is NMK Foods based in Mississauga. With an investment
of $43,000 from the Local Food Investment Fund, the company is upgrading
its equipment to pack product more efficiently, deliver a much higher
quality product and add shelf life.
NMK Foods creates and manufactures an authentic tasting, Ontario-sourced
halal product line that includes chicken, turkey, beef and lamb
Kebabs, meatballs, burgers and marinated chicken. Products are available
in grocery stores across the province and the company is negotiating
with major chains to expand its retail presence.
Local Food Champion
Vineland Research and Innovation Centre
Feeding Diversity a Research Priority
Located in the Niagara Region, Vineland Research and Innovation
Centre is a world-leading research facility that works with growers
to showcase the potential of new crop opportunities. It is conducting
a multi-disciplinary research program, Feeding Diversity: Bringing
World Crops to Market, designed to build a local ethno-cultural
The program focuses on development of new world crops such as okra
and Asian eggplant varieties. In partnership with commercial growers
across Canada, Vineland's production team is testing varieties of
these crops for performance in such areas as growth rate, potential
yield and disease resistance.
India accounts for most of the world's okra crop and Canada imports
over 6 million kilograms a year. In tests in summer 2016, three
okra varieties did particularly well under Canadian conditions -
leaving growers, researchers and retailers optimistic about the
China produces most of the world's eggplant. But with the success
of this research, consumers now can often find some local eggplant
at the grocery store. Then they can just slice it like cucumber
and toss in the wok!
Vineland is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded
in part by the Ontario government through the federal-provincial-territorial
Growing Forward 2 program.
Local Food Champion
Cross Wind Farm
Meeting Demand for Artisan Goat Cheese
Located just east of Peterborough, Cross Wind Farm is a goat farm
that began shipping raw milk 10 years ago and now produces a multi-faceted
line of goat products, including pasteurized milk, artisan cheeses
and Chevon (goat meat). With a $40,000 grant from the Local Food
Investment Fund, the farm invested in new processing equipment to
increase production capacity to meet the growing demand for its
The project enabled Cross Wind to launch three new products, increasing
yearly cheese sales by more than 60 per cent. Overall revenue was
up $80,000 over six months, due to increased production. The higher
capacity also means better market access for other goat producers,
as Cross Wind can aggregate goat dairy from other Ontario farms
in its pasteurization and packaging facility.
Local Food Champion
Ontario Edamame Competing with Imports
Edamame is a kind of soybean that is popular in the cuisines of
Japan, China and other countries in East Asia. It can be eaten as
a snack or appetizer or used as an ingredient in various dishes.
Most edamame consumed in Ontario is imported from Asia.
Interested in offering Canadians a new crop, young farmer Jacob
MacKellar perfected edamame growing techniques over three years
of research and development to produce high quality legumes, both
in size and taste. He reaped his first harvest of edamame on his
family's farm southwest of London in 2010 and a year later MacKellar
Farms' edamame was in a handful of stores in Toronto. It's caught
on and is now sold in over 350 stores across Canada.
The Ontario government supported this local food initiative with
a $105,000 grant in 2015 for new technology and marketing efforts.
Most of the funds went to acquire specialized equipment to prepare
edamame for the freezing process. Edamame usually is not sold fresh
- instead it is quick frozen and sold like peas or beans. The new
equipment is expected to improve yields and quality while reducing
Local Food - A World of Opportunity
Today's farmers are doing more with less. In 1900, a single Canadian
farmer could feed 10 people. Today it is estimated that one farmer
produces enough food for 120 people - and does it on less land and
using less water and other resources.
The driving force behind this extraordinary achievement has been
innovation throughout the value chain: innovation in technology
both on the farm and in processing to boost productivity, and innovation
in product development, distribution and marketing to respond to
the needs of a changing society.
The fundamental purpose behind Ontario's Local Food Strategy is
to help keep this innovation going. By increasing consumer awareness
and appreciation of local food, as well improving access to local
food and expanding the menu of local food choices on offer, the
strategy will accelerate growth in Ontario's already thriving agri-food
The stories presented in this report have highlighted some of the
exciting opportunities sparked by grassroots efforts across Ontario
to expand the consumption of food produced or made here.
Looking ahead, momentum behind the growing emphasis on World Foods
can be expected to increase - bringing local food options more closely
in line with consumer preferences in our diverse society. And our
creative farmers and processors can be counted on to keep generating
new specialized food options in response to evolving market demand.
The Ontario government remains determined to sustain the right environment
and provide the right support for our agri-food sector to help Ontarians
Bring Home the World.