Two years in, Our Food Future hits key targets and broadens scope
Our Food Future launched in 2020 supported by $10 million from Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, a national competition that declared Guelph-Wellington a winner in May 2019. The proposal was an ambitious undertaking to reimagine how our community produces, distributes, sells, and consumes food.
The initiative is currently overseeing more than 60 active projects. Notable achievements at the two-year mark of this work include:
- Supporting economic and social recovery efforts during COVID-19 through Grow Back Better, an initiative which provided grants, interest-free loans and mentoring for food sector businesses, invested in emergency food delivery exceeding 77,000 meals, and helped 740 families learn about growing food at home
- Victory on a goal to support the development of 50 new circular businesses and collaborations, with more than 181 businesses adopting or expanding their circular practices
- Distributed more than $206,000 to advance community initiatives designed to strengthen food security, including neighbourhood food gardens, affordable food markets, and to pilot new systems designed to improve food access
- Demonstrated the value of connecting food businesses to explore food waste diversion with the launch of the world’s first circular restaurant meal
- Prevented 1,769 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by diverting 6,479 tonnes of food waste from landfill
These activities are making food more accessible, giving families options in their neighbourhoods that they can afford, and allowing for businesses to contribute to the circular economy rather than landfill.
They are also positioning Guelph-Wellington as a circular economy innovation hub and attracting more funding. Since announcing the initial $10 million prize, the project has secured an additional $14.2 million to support the work of City, County, and community collaborators.
This includes nearly $5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) in April 2021 to launch the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL). COIL is a business acceleration platform that pioneers new, sustainable approaches aimed at creating, proving, and scaling transformative solutions across the food and environment sectors in southern Ontario. More than 40 businesses or collaborations are already working with COIL in its first phase.
Since Our Food Future launched, adopting more circular practices and changing our food systems has emerged as a critical global movement. In August 2020, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report warning that the world cannot avert a climate crisis unless we rapidly transform our food systems. In November 2021 the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration formalized commitments from local and regional authorities from across the world to put into practice integrated food policies to tackle the climate emergency. Recently, City joined the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, an international agreement on urban food policies signed by over 200 cities from all over the world.
Additional information about the project’s progress, upcoming initiatives and how community members can get involved is available at foodfuture.ca.
“The innovations tested here, and lessons learned, are informing and inspiring change locally, and globally. Our example has been shared on world stages as nations commit to adopt circular principles that take us closer to our goals to tackle climate change and food insecurity. Project leaders and partners from Our Food Future have presented at more than 115 broadcasts and events, locally, nationally, and internationally, reaching an audience of more than one million people.”
Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director, Smart Cities Office
“We’ve had a lot of early success, completed many research studies, and analyzed a ton of data to help bring more precision to our understanding of critical areas we want to address: where businesses need to focus to support sustainability as well as profitability, where food waste hotspots occur across the entire food industry, the kinds of food we’re throwing away at home that can be saved, the barriers to people in our community accessing nutritious foods, and more. With all we have learned, we will be able to share and engage with our community and industry stakeholders to define the most effective interventions to create significant and permanent change.”
Jana Burns, Director of Museum, Archives and Economic Development with Wellington County
“Our Food Future is powering, building, and sustaining our future. These efforts are making a permanent contribution to address critical social issues and support a community where everyone has a chance to thrive. I couldn’t be happier with the progress and the impact we’ve seen to date in the community.”
Scott Stewart, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Guelph
About Our Food Future
Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build Canada’s first tech-enabled circular food economy that will increase access to affordable nutritious food, create new circular economy businesses and collaborations, increase circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste, and enable the systems change required for a circular regional food system through collective knowledge and action.
Our Food Future demonstrates one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone.
Our Circular Future (report)
Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director
Smart Cities Office, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3066
Museum, Archives and Economic Development
County of Wellington