Planting the seeds and pivoting in a pandemic

Planting the seeds and pivoting in a pandemic

Our work to date

To date, much of our work has focused on creating the right growing conditions for transformative ideas to flourish. 

person on ipadTo foster collaboration, we established a diverse network of 49 partner organizations and 995 stakeholders, including local businesses, not-for-profit organizations, youth, farmers, and community members. We also launched The Kitchen Table, an online community collaboration platform with over 700 registered users.

To give those stakeholders and partners the information they need to create evidence-based solutions, we launched an open data platform, compiling maps, applications, and more than 50 food-related datasets from federal, provincial, and local sources.

And to help bring those solutions to life, we’ve attracted more than $1 million in in-kind contributions, including advisory support, transportation services, and access to warehouse space and equipment.

We’ve also launched the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL). Founded in 2021, in collaboration with Innovation Guelph and 10C, with support from other business organizations, COIL is helping accelerate circular businesses and innovations across southern Ontario in the food and environment sectors. COIL is launching innovation challenges across supply chains and will support five industrial scale demonstration projects that inspire broader circular change. It also established Resource Exchange Marketplace, an online platform that helps businesses connect, buy, sell, and repurpose products/co-products or waste that they generate in their business but can’t use.

Finally, we’re keeping the momentum going through capacity-building and education. This has included taking part in nearly 50 broadcasts and events — locally, nationally, and internationally — reaching more than 100,000 people. Meanwhile, our quarterly On Our Plate newsletter boasts nearly 900 subscribers, and our monthly podcast has been streamed at least 614 times.

Each day, our core team, partners, and collaborators deliver tangible results that are transforming how Guelph-Wellington produces and consumes food. 

Collectively, we are increasing community prosperity and environmental sustainability. We are fostering greater social equity. And we are establishing a clear vision of an inclusive green economy of the future — one that values nutrition, health, diversity, equity, and dignity.

Read more about Grow Back Better, our response to COVID-19

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic disrupted social and economic structures and exacerbated food insecurity: issues that Our Food Future was working to resolve. It quickly became clear that Our Food Future could support Guelph-Wellington’s response to COVID-19 and the recovery from the global crisis. That’s why we accelerated our project roll-out and immediately leveraged $1.4 million in funding from Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.

The result was Grow Back Better: an 18-month strategy to support Guelph-Wellington’s agri-food and social benefit sectors. The 10-point plan and subsequent programs were structured around three key priorities:

  • Increasing access to affordable, nutritious food 
  • Supporting new and existing food businesses
  • Strengthening regional food system resiliency

Over 18 months, Grow Back Better:

  • generated $1.4 million in community donations and in-kind contributions 
  • leveraged an additional $1.5 million in public- and private-sector funding 
  • prepared and delivered 77,013 meals and 57,187 nutritious food boxes to community members
  • provided $106,000 for 10 community-led urban agriculture projects
  • provided $1.3 million in cash and support for local food businesses

Grow Back Better created immediate community impact in Guelph-Wellington. In addition, it has demonstrated that strong cross-sectoral partnerships and circular economy principles can be applied to businesses and social benefit programs in short order. 

As Guelph-Wellington began to emerge from the worst economic impacts of the pandemic, we integrated ongoing Grow Back Better programs into the broader Our Food Future and COIL initiatives, ensuring they continue to support the community during COVID-19 and the subsequent recovery.

Read more about Grow Back Better here.

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