04/15/2013 05:42 EDT | Updated 06/15/2013 05:12 EDT

The Local Food Act That Could Make a Difference in Ontario

Ontarians everywhere are anxiously awaiting the warm summer weather as unseasonably cool temperatures continue through most areas of the province. Warmer weather means barbecues, lazy days, and hours spent roaming through local farmers markets full of homegrown produce and tasty treats. Although many of us are fortunate enough to look forward to these seasonal events, for others in our communities this is too often not the case.

With the current economic state in Ontario, many individuals are struggling to put meals on the table each and every day. Prices are rising across the board for food staples, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find accessible, affordable, and nutritious food. Supporting local agriculture is vital not only to the health of our economy, but to the health of our citizens. Right now, there is proposed provincial legislation that could help make important change by supporting the Ontario Agri-Food Sector.

On March 25, 2013, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the new Ontario government re-introduced legislation in support of Ontario's agri-food sector. The Local Food Act (Bill 36), if passed, hopes to increase awareness, use, and development of local food markets that house foods grown and made in Ontario. The promotion and implementation of new markets will correspondingly strengthen the agri-food industry, perpetuate job growth, and fortify communities - ultimately enabling a stronger economy.

The Local Food Act plans to enable the government to work with public sector organizations, to establish local food goals and share information on their progress through a local food report. Bill 36 is also proposed to provide funding for innovative and collaborative projects that could, furthermore, generate new local food market ideas. In addition to the positive value of local food development, the government has proposed a Local Food Week, which will begin each year on the Monday before Thanksgiving. This week will be the driving force behind the provincial awareness of locally grown and made foods, encouraging Ontarians to consistently buy local.

Since being re-introduced to legislature, the Local Food Act has passed its first reading. As many Ontarians struggle to gain access to valuable employment and affordable yet healthy foods, the passing of the Act will hopefully assist in reducing these troubles. Growth in Ontario's economy has the potential to help fight poverty, decrease health care spending, and even improve our education system allowing for a more sustainable future. Having greater access to healthy, local foods provides Ontarians with the opportunity to make overall healthier living choices on a daily basis. The Ontario Association of Food Banks supports the passing of the Local Food Act, which will ultimately support our vision of a hunger-free Ontario, and enable all Ontario citizens to access locally grown foods this summer, and all year round.

By Mandi Parkes, Special Events & Marketing Coordinator at Ontario Association of Food Banks

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