January 10th: Towards A Healthy Community Food System

With conditions like obesity and chronic diseases, such as asthma, prominent in todays youth, Region of Waterloo Public Health have come up with many discussion papers to look at these issues in depth. “Towards a Healthy Community Food System for Waterloo Region” (prepared in 2005) is one example I read yesterday. It had many valuable points, however two main aspects stood out to me: the importance of community and emerging trends.

Knowing that in the next 40 years, the Region will face population growth of %50 looking at our food system is vital. What this report does is that it looks at the overlapping elements of economy, health, community and environment through a healthy communities model.

Emerging trends note that farmer markers are on the rise, not to mention food box programs and community shared agriculture projects are also in demand. People in Waterloo want to buy local food! In a survey in 2003, almost 50% of people said it was somewhat or 40% of people said it was very important to buy local food for the following reasons (rank in highest to lowest importance): fresher, preserves local farmland, support local farmers, decreases dependency on imports, travelled less, cheaper and safer. All very important reasons when considering the environment, health and economy, especially when the total farms in 2001 Waterloo 1,444 – in Ontario 59,738, lowered from 1995 by almost 10%.

Another statistic I found was: Waterloo Region has 31 community gardens – how cool is that! Not to mention, on pg. 23 of the article, it shows Waterloo Regions current food intake compared with recommended amount of food that could be sourced locally. Therefore it basically shows if eating everything local is possible – and the result seem fairly close! Now I realize that this article was written in 2005 but I wanted to find the root of ‘eating local’ in Waterloo Region and when the Region really got serious about it.

Most recently Waterloo Region has come up with a Roundtable. The Roundtable’s efforts were in the following areas throughout 2012, which included (can be found in minutes from meetings at the Region of Waterloo): gain greater profile for the existing and potential economic development capacity of the local food and agricultural sector by reaching out to economic developers and sponsoring further research advise on a fuller range of local policies that support the Roundtable’s six priorities, broaden the reach of the website and diversify membership – to better reflect the diversity of Waterloo Region’s population. A link to the website is at the bottom of this article.

The report and the roundtable website of course offers many more important facts and information that I do not point out here, for example healthy food available in school, in the Region and emerging food trends in 2013. But I think the most important part of this article is that “healthy food needs to be available, accessibly and affordable to support healthy eating choice” because Waterloo Region WANTS to eat locally! 

2005 Report: http://chd.region.waterloo.on.ca/en/researchResourcesPublications/resources/FoodSystems_Report.pdfRoundtable website: http://www.wrfoodsystem.ca/

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