The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted why local food system resiliency is so important. We’ve seen how global crises can disrupt international supply chains, increasing the risks of shortages. We’ve seen how physical distancing and school closures impact residents who depend on food banks and students who count on school breakfast programs, while financial insecurity is leading to food insecurity for many families. We’ve seen how closing down traditional outlets like farmers’ markets can leave local producers and consumers in the lurch.
A resilient regional food system helps buffer our community against stresses like economic downturns, international trade disputes and pandemics. To boost Guelph-Wellington’s resiliency, we’re working with our partners on a variety of initiatives.
Connecting food producers and consumers—accessing local markets online
COVID-19 has disrupted many of the in-person channels local food producers depend on to connect with consumers, including farmers’ markets. In response, we’ve convened a working group and provided $10,000 to develop an integrated online platform that helps food producers and consumers connect with each other. The working group includes participants from the City of Guelph, Wellington County’s Taste Real initiative, Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures, 10C and Farmers’ Markets Ontario.
Enabling distribution and delivery models for online food delivery
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for food delivery and online grocery orders has skyrocketed. The crisis has highlighted the importance of novel approaches to food distribution. Building on these learnings, we’re providing $60,000 and working with our partners to develop and test other models that meet the needs of producers and consumers, while aligning with evolving Public Health guidelines. Key components of these models include:
- Online ordering platforms,
- Online demand aggregation platforms,
- Common packing/distribution facilities, and
- Last-mile distribution models, including home delivery and pick-up approaches.
Leveraging food system data to help our partners innovate and respond to the changing market
In 2020 and 2021, our data collaboration efforts will focus on helping partners undertake projects that bolster food security and economic recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19. This includes identifying immediate needs and leveraging food system data to help delivery partners innovate and respond to the changing market. We’ll draw on the data collected through our material flow study, as well as other data sets shared through the Data Utility. Meanwhile, we’ll focus the Utility’s first use cases on identifying immediate gaps or excess resources that can support food security and economic recovery.
Community Steering Committee Food System Resiliency Table
To assist post-crisis economic recovery efforts, we convened our Community Steering Committee to create a Food System Resiliency Table. This group will provide actionable, on-the-ground insights and support to ensure the strength and sustainability of our regional food systems during the current crisis and better equip our food system of the future. Together, they will connect diverse stakeholders from the food, farming and community sector to gather intelligence and develop recommendations to support short and mid term needs within our regional food system.