These past several months have presented our community with a number of challenges resulting from several global issues. At the same time, we’ve been inspired by you, and the community, who have come together with ideas, solutions and resources to help address some of our most urgent needs.
COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of our community including our economy and social well-being. This has reinforced the need for us to create a sustainable circular food economy that provides access to healthy nutritious food for all citizens.
In May we launched Grow Back Better: Our Food Future’s 10-point recovery plan which refocuses $1.6 million in federal Smart Cities funding over the next 18 months to support recovery efforts that align with the Our Food Future’s goals and objectives. Through this work we are helping Guelph-Wellington to get growing again by boosting local food production; supporting vulnerable residents so they can access affordable, nutritious food during the pandemic more easily; and continuing to provide immediate food distribution.
The following are some highlights from our collective work over the last few months.
Emergency food delivery and Harve$t Impact fund
In partnership with many Our Food Future stakeholders, The SEED rapidly shifted its food security programming to give those most impacted by COVID-19 immediate access to nutritious food. By leveraging technology, transforming their supply systems, and mobilizing a community of cooks and delivery solution, The SEED will distribute at least 100,000 nutritious food boxes by this fall. Our Food Future is supporting this work with $90,000 in funding.
It’s remarkable to tour the SEED’s 30,000 square foot operations hub on Huron Street in Guelph or to visit one of the commercial kitchens where volunteers are preparing handmade, nutritious meals from scratch. By finding the value in food—all food—volunteers are also using donated food that might otherwise be wasted.
The Harve$t Impact fund was launched at the same time to double the impact community donations have in Guelph-Wellington. Individual cash donations are being matched dollar-for-dollar for the first $90,000 raised. This means that an individual $50 donation becomes $100. The goal is to raise $100,000+ in cash, plus in-kind services, to upscale the work of The SEED’s Emergency Food Home Delivery program. Donations can be made at harvestimpact.ca.
We would appreciate your help to share this community funding process through your channels and across your networks. All donations make a difference, and it’s critically important that we help meet this goal.
Gardening at home
With families spending most of their time at home, and with community programming being cancelled, we found a way to lift spirits and introduce families to the joys and benefits of growing food at home. Our Food Future is building on existing urban agriculture programs to help residents across our region get their “green thumbs” dirty.
Kids Get Growing was launched in May. The program provided more than 700 at-home gardening kits to youth in Guelph-Wellington. The kit included educational resources, vegetable seeds and soils.
Demand for this program far exceeded our expectations: our community ordered all 740 Kids Get Growing kits within 90 minutes! We are staying in touch with some of the participating families and look forward to sharing their stories on foodfuture.ca. Later this summer, we will launch the Urban Agriculture Activation program in partnership with 10C to deliver over $100,000 in grants to support food-growing projects in towns, communities, and gathering places across our region. Program guidelines and an online idea crowdsourcing portal will be launched in August, and we will be looking to our community to identify creative and impactful ideas that will put Guelph-Wellington on the global urban agriculture map.
Funding food innovation
As part of Grow Back Better, we launched two initiatives to help address regional supply chain challenges. First, we committed $12,000 to help local farmers’ markets adapt, and are partnering with the Open Food Network to move the Guelph Farmers’ Market online. Second, we supported the launch of Annex Guelph, a food distribution and Delivery project designed to help local food producers connect with consumers. Guelph residents can now order locally produced foods online and have them delivered by zero-emission electric bikes.
Supporting local business and the economy through recovery is important to the Smart Cities office, the City of Guelph and County of Wellington. We’ve also seen how agile and creative our local entrepreneurs can be when faced with a challenge, and we’re here to help amplify their efforts.
The Seeding Our Food Future micro-grant program was launched to provide 40 new and existing Guelph-Wellington food system businesses, not-for-profits and social enterprises grants to support sustainable transition and recovery from current economic shocks. In total 76 were received by the June 30 deadline. We look forward announcing the recipients in the coming days, and supporting them to move their work forward.
The successful applicants will each receive a $5,000 non-repayable seed funding grant through Innovation Guelph’s Circular Food Economy iHub (CFE iHub) – an initiative of Our Food Future that supports new business creation and promotes collaborations contributing to the circular food economy.
Additionally, the program will provide up to 30 hours of expert advice with guidance from a lead mentor and industry specialists ($4,500 value). Selected applicants will also receive a guaranteed spot in R-Purpose MICRO, a 12-week educational program focused on building sustainable practices, circularity and business resilience, delivered by Provision Coalition, a food industry advisory firm ($1,200 value).
Successful applicants will be eligible to apply for one of 30 interest free loans of up to $10,000 through the Harve$t Impact Fund and the Waterloo-Wellington and Saugeen Community Futures offices. The $300,000 in total financing will support businesses shifting their practices in a way that contributes to the circular food economy.
Seeding Our Food Future is a collaboration between Innovation Guelph, 10C, LaunchIt Minto, Business Centre Guelph-Wellington, John F. Wood Centre at the University of Guelph, Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures, and Provision Coalition.
While the past few months have been busy, our work didn’t just start in March. The Smart Cities Office and workstream participants have been busy laying the foundation for the next four years since May 2019.
We’ve established a communications and engagement strategy, created materials to support our workstreams and collaborators, and connected with our communities through the Federal government’s Smart Cities initiative to share quick wins and challenges. We’ve also been connecting organizations and groups across Canada, North America and the world to share what’s taking place right here in Guelph-Wellington. The world is watching us. They are excited to see what we are doing and how we are making a real difference in our community today and for the future.
In the next few months, we will be launching an easy-to-use community engagement portal, gathering and sharing rich, useful data from our community partners and programs, and continuing to share stories of community resiliency to inspire and motivate others towards a strong recovery.
Keep an eye out for this work and we will be sure to keep you informed about what’s taking place.
Since we love all things food in Guelph-Wellington, we’re looking forward to celebrating Food Day Canada on August 1. This is a chance for all Canadians to join in a massive celebration in praise of our farmers and fishers, our chefs and researchers, and our home cooks. Whether you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, grilling in your back yard or at your campsite, cooking in your restaurant or having a meal at home, use #FoodDayCanda in your posts on Twitter and Instagram to show the world who makes food in Guelph-Wellington. Don’t forget to add #OurFoodFuture too!
One last note, while our community is beginning its recovery efforts, COVID-19 is still here. We are still managing and responding to this virus. If you would like more information on the City of Guelph’s or County of Wellington’s COVID-19 response or recovery, please visit the respective websites. The work of Our Food Future, and in particular, Grow Back Better, will support the City’s and County’s economic and social recovery efforts.
Throughout this experience, I have reflected many times on my gratitude for this great community. Together we set a strong foundation that enabled us to be agile when our community needed it most. We have strong leadership in government and healthcare that is working to keep us safe. And we have farmers, producers, manufactures, distributors and partners working together to keep us well nourished.
Thank you for the important role you continue to play in Our Food Future.
Have a wonderful and safe summer,
Smart Cities Office