Guelph: On the front lines of food security innovation

Alison Springate Guelph Smart City Office • 7 September 2018

Guelph-Wellington’s circular food economy vision is 50x50x50 by 2025: increase access to affordable, nutritious food by 50%; create 50 new businesses and collaborations; and increase economic revenues by 50% by recognizing the value of “waste”. The application has been named a finalist in the Challenge and is now in the running for a $10 million prize.

Guelph-Wellington is already having an impact, thanks in large part to a not-for-profit program that’s pushing the boundaries of food security innovation: The SEED Guelph.

The SEED is a community food project, based in the Guelph Community Health Centre, with goals to directly address food insecurity and increase food access, while generating profit to support the broader mission.

The SEED incubates and grows social enterprises that contribute towards those goals while providing opportunities for NEET youth (Youth not in Employment, Education or Training) to gain skills and confidence, and re-enter the workforce.

At their largest project to date, the Guelph Youth Farm, 14 NEET youth are employed and 25 more positively impacted by its work. After 2017—its first full year—15 of the farm’s youth staff went on to further employment or educational opportunities. In addition to the Youth Farm, four other new social enterprises have been created, with four more in the pipeline.

By addressing food insecurity, The SEED offers solutions to other root causes of poverty.

“Their Garden Fresh Box is providing a new revenue stream for local farmers. The Youth Farm is helping NEET develop marketable skills. Souper Heroes raises awareness and funds for food security. I really admire how they achieve their purpose while also tackling other challenging issues.”

Andrew Taylor – One of Canada’s leading social research and evaluation consultants who has worked on food security issues for over a decade

With the SEED’s local success getting a big boost from the Guelph Smart Cities circular food economy bid, there is excitement about designing a pathway to increased food security for use across the country.

The Smart Cities Challenge is the perfect project for us to move our work forward in ways we couldn’t alone. We believe it can rally our whole city around a common food vision that both shows how special Guelph is and, more importantly, makes a difference in the lives of those who are currently food insecure.”

Gavin Dandy – Directing Coordinator, SEED