Our Food Future and our community collaborators have submitted a proposal to the Bloomberg Cities Network Mayor’s Challenge! This competition will invite 50 ambitious ideas developed by cities in response to COVID-19 to compete for one of 15 $1 million prizes to implement their bold idea.
Tackling Food Security
COVID-19 has highlighted and worsened many issues in our food system related to food security. More people in our region are finding it challenging to afford enough of the right foods to meet their needs. We know that most of the food brought in for food relief distribution in our city is transported in from outside our region. We also know that residents have shown an increased interest in community gardening and growing their own food.
We believe that if we can find stronger, more efficient modes of collaboration and provide infrastructure, resources and skills training on urban farming, we will be able to grow a substantial amount of the produce needed to feed our community.
The Smart Community Greenhouse Network
The Smart Community Greenhouse Network will see the Our Food Future collaborators engage with the local food relief and broader food and agriculture community to fully understand needs, identify appropriate lands, resources and capacity for building and operating a group of 3 or even 4 season neighbourhood-based community greenhouses. Each of the proposed greenhouses will be equipped with appropriate technologies on a mix of public, private and/or community-owned lands. We will work with local green energy non-profits and agri-tech companies and researchers at the University of Guelph to install and display an array of innovative ways to grow food with a reduced environmental impact.
Part of the initiative will be to determine the best ways to collaborate on operating the network, sustaining and maintaining the infrastructure, maximizing food production and distribution. The result of these conversations will be a collaborative multi-stakeholder model that meets a range of objectives including:
- Food relief – fresh produce grown for Guelph-Wellington residents, by Guelph-Wellington residents;
- Community building – Opportunities to support innovation, entrepreneurs and other food growing technologies and initiatives that can have a big social and environmental impact;
- Education – Skills development and training to equip our residents with the knowledge they need to grow their own food.
The program will also develop technological tools to support community greenhouse management and food relief distribution. A Farmer-in-residence will be hired to support the first year of greenhouse management at multiple sites, as we will lead a public education program to encourage urban food growing.
The program will also build on the success of the Guelph-Wellington Urban Agriculture Challenge. The Shovel and Fork stream of funding supported 8 groups with $2,000 for food projects). In a similar vein, an additional round of challenge grants will be made available for local groups to increase their capacity to support the food system with additional projects such as community root cellars and composting centres.
The program will also support existing community gardens. This could potentially be utilized to start new, much-needed plots or provide the means to extend their growing season with the potential for greenhouses, cold frames or other infrastructure.
The Smart Cities Data Hub will help us understand areas the best places to house the infrastructure to increase local and regional growing opportunities to marginalized and food insecure populations and reduce distribution miles and greenhouse gases.