One easy way you can advance food security in Ontario

Education on healthy food is a step closer to being implemented across the curriculum, thanks to a Government pilot in participatory budgeting, the work of Janet Nezon and Mardi Michels, and strong support from the public across the province.

The Government received 700 ideas and will put up to $5 million into up to five of them. We’re down to the last 13. They’ll be voted on, and the top five will be implemented in the next budget.

Register and vote now here.

One of the top ideas was submitted by Nezon and Michels: “for the government to provide budget funding for all kindergarten/elementary children in Ontario to participate in evidence based, hands-on food education programming, including gardening, as a required part of the school curriculum.”

Nezon knows both first-hand and through research, the significant impacts of this learning to affect children’s relationship with food. Though having given this programming to over 15,000 children and adults, she still finds a challenge making it accessible to all kids.

“Just today I had a request from a school who had limited funds to bring our programs in, and we were brainstorming how to reach the most kids with their budget,” Nezon told me.

“Currently there is no budget allocation specifically for food education and schools need to rely on parent councils or discretionary funds to bring in this type of programming. It makes for  great inequity in available funds across all schools.”

It’s no surprise that food security and sovereignty ideas have made four of the top 13.

Food remains a low priority of government, but a high priority of the public. Provincial and federal food strategies are finally being developed, and a high vote by the people should have politicians and the public service taking note. We need a lot more done. Four of the other 13 ideas are on mental health, showing the lack of resources and great public interest and need in these two areas.

You can vote for Food Education (top of the list) and others here.

A more specific idea “Edible Garden”, also part of Nezon’s proposal, also made the top 13… for schools to partner with a local organization and nearby residents to create gardens, similar to the work of Green Thumbs Growing Kids, FoodShare and others. Yorkwoods Pulic School did that last spring in partnership with Ozery Bakery and Building Roots (below).

Courtesy Ozery Bakery – Stephanie Conroy of Building Roots harvest at Yorkwoods PS

It is imperative that education be combined with large-scale urban agriculture, accessible food stores and increased incomes/assistance rates so that what is learned in school becomes doable at home and accessible in all communities. That must be a priority of government and the citizenry going forward.

Accessible, affordable food, and food education is long overdue in Ontario. It should have been implemented long ago as a must-have, rather than a vote.

Image at top by Catherine Farquharson – Rainbow Plate program

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