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Cultivating community and connection: Introduction

In Guelph-Wellington, the majority of residents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. One in seven households experience food insecurity. Meanwhile, the cost of healthy food keeps rising. This isn’t just a local problem. Around the world, almost a billion people are hungry or undernourished. If consumption and population trends continue, by 2050 the global population will grow to nine billion and caloric demand will increase by 70 per cent.

At the same time, between a third and a half of all food produced is discarded or lost. Much of that “waste” ends up in landfill, where it creates methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

We believe something better is possible.

In 2020, we officially launched Our Food Future. This partnership between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington brings together approximately 127 core stakeholders, including local government, community groups, businesses, industry associations, NGOs, academia, institutes, public agencies and utilities.

Starting with a vision that came from the community and prompted by Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, we’re creating a food system driven by a quadruple bottom line:

  • Prosperity—economic growth,
  • Planet—environmental sustainability,
  • People—greater social equity, and
  • Purpose—a clear vision of an inclusive green economy of the future, valuing nutrition, health, diversity, equity and dignity.

Our vision and goals

Our vision is to create Canada’s first circular food economy. Using data, technology and the wealth of expertise found in this region, we’re reinventing how we produce, distribute and consume food—and providing a practical roadmap for others to follow.

We want to ensure everyone in Guelph-Wellington has access to affordable, nutritious food required to live healthy, productive lives. We want to create new jobs and vibrant economic opportunities within a circular, collaborative ecosystem. We also want to solve food problems using smart technologies, digital agriculture and strategies that find value in the material our current system treats as waste—the byproducts of an unsustainable linear food economy.

That’s why we’ve set out to achieve three ambitious goals by 2025.

  1. Increase access to affordable, nutritious food by 50 per cent.
  2. Create 50 new circular businesses and collaborations.
  3. Increase circular economic benefit by 50 per cent by unlocking the value of waste.

To realize these benefits, we’re using nature’s circular approach as our inspiration.

Responding to COVID-19: Grow Back Better

A few months after we officially launched Our Food Future, COVID-19 deeply impacted the ways people live, work and care for others in this community. The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated many of the system-level challenges Our Food Future aims to resolve— from food insecurity for vulnerable residents to supply/demand mismatches and more. To support economic and social recovery efforts in Guelph and Wellington County, we’ve adjusted our goals for years one and two to include Grow Back Better: Our Food Future’s 10-point plan in response to COVID-19.