The Foundation's Sustainable Food Systems initiative aims at systemic change to increase local and regional sustainable food production capacity while ensuring that healthy food is accessible to all. The initiative is comprised of:
- A select number of national grants which work across the food system to deepen or disseminate work which has been successful at a more local level;
- three programs: the Banking on Change Program, the Regional Value Chain Program, and the Institutional Food Program;
- and a number of strategic components to heighten the impact of the initiative including impact investing and capacity building, through learning engagements such as a Food Business Boot Camp and a partnership with Food Secure Canada
History of the Initiative
Canadians increasingly understand that a resilient and sustainable food system must address not only the economic wellbeing of producers and consumers, but also environmental impacts and human health outcomes. Local, diverse, and ecologically sustainable food initiatives are multiplying across the country, including eco-certification, regionally focused restaurants and food markets, and healthy supply chain strategies that link informed consumers to local producers. The challenge is to disseminate and scale this work, embedding it in the fabric of our food system.
The Foundation launched the Sustainable Food Systems initiative in 2010, building on a long history of funding a variety of innovative food related projects. Initial support was provided to a project which was to become Community Food Centres Canada, and to Local Food Plus. A call for proposals elicited a plethora of proposals attesting to the vibrancy of Canada’s food movement. In response, several more national grants were made and the Regional Value Chain program was created, supporting 15 organizations to assess their regional food systems and then develop and implement market-based interventions to address gaps identified.
In 2011, a partnership was developed with Food Secure Canada to convene grantees and other food organizations in a learning network. Other notable collaborations included joining the investor’s table of the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Food in Canada, developing a national food funders’s group, and working with the MaRS Solutions Lab and Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation & Resilience on a food lab.
The Institutional Food program was launched in 2014 and supports the work of hospitals, long-term care facilities, universities, schools and other institutions that want to serve more healthy, local and sustainable food. The Banking on Change Program, also launched in 2014, supports the transformational work of food banks across Canada by targeting food security at the community level, with a focus on the role of food banks in moving beyond emergency food aid towards an approach that meaningfully integrates healthy food procurement and civic engagement.
The Foundation envisions a food system that links growers and consumers in supply chains that incorporate shared values around sustainability, health, and resilience.