Time to Ensure Access to Affordable Local Food

Ontario needs a plan to improve access to healthy food. A healthy diet is important to improving the health and well-being of all Ontarians and reducing stress on our health care system.
I had an opportunity to attend the Do the Math town hall this week sponsored by The Stop Community Food Centre. Over 300 people learned about the experiences of 10 prominent Toronto families living for a week on a food bank diet. Listening to their stories and the almost impossible challenge of making it through the week was gut wrenching.

It was frustrating to hear these stories knowing that Ontario farmers are struggling to make a living while producing the best food in the world. Yet, in the midst of this abundance, we have fellow citizens going hungry. As I travel across the province, I’m meeting with people from all walks of life who know that this situation is not right.

Last month I wrote about the need for a comprehensive food strategy for Ontario. Since then, the Liberal budget announced the cancellation of the Special Diet Allowance for individuals fighting illness. Without a plan to replace this program, those who need special diets to combat illness will suffer.

Ontario can do better. It’s time to recognize that fresh, safe local food is critically important to our health and well-being. It’s time for policies (e.g., replacement program for the special diet allowance, tax credit for farmer donations, healthy food programs for schools) to ensure that all Ontarians have access to affordable local food and that our farmers can make a decent living growing it.