Local Foods in Healthcare: Promoting a Stronger Community

Maintaining health and well-being is a main goal of hospitals and long-term care homes.  Incorporating local foods into healthcare institution menus not only aligns with this mission remarkably but can lead to healthier patients and communities.

Benefits of Local Food Use in Healthcare Institutions

There are lots of benefits to using local foods on the menu in hospitals and long-term care homes. Here are just a few:

          Increased patient satisfaction and nutrition

Studies show that patients are pleased to hear that the ingredients for their meal came from a local farm, and this can have a positive effect on comfort and meal satisfaction ratings.1

Local foods can also provide better nutrition for patients as they are more likely to be fresh. Better nutrition can lead to quicker recovery rates and shorter hospital stays, which can lessen the burden on healthcare systems.

          Stronger support for the provincial economy

Buying local food for healthcare institutions means more business for local food producers and farmers.  It also strengthens relationships between managers in healthcare and local farmers, uniting our community.

          Smaller carbon footprint

Food travels a shorter distance when obtained locally, which reduces fuel use, carbon emissions, and pollution during transport.

 Strategies for Successful Local Food Use

Now that we know why local foods are a great component of healthcare menus, what is being done to encourage and increase local food use in our institutions?

In a 2018 study, Emily Linton and colleagues set out to determine key influences and key strategies for successful local food use in Ontario healthcare institutions.2 They interviewed stakeholders from multiple areas of the food system and revealed practical actions that helped healthcare institutions get more local foods into patient meals.

Here are a few strategies they found were key to success:

          Local food lists

If you were a food service manager looking to purchase local food for the hospital, wouldn’t it be easier if you had a list clearly indicating available local foods?

This is the role of a local food list—to group foods grown or produced in Ontario, all in one place.  Hospitals and long-term care homes can ask their group purchasing organizations (the organizations through which they buy their food items) to update their food product list to include local foods.

          Local frozen produce

Local produce availability can change with the season, but many healthcare institution menus do not.  One solution is local frozen produce, which is available year-round.

           Using in-season produce

Another solution is using produce that is in season, as it often comes at a lower cost.

 Success in the Field: Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care

Local food is being used by healthcare institutions right here in London!

One institution helping set the example is Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care.  They buy fresh, in-season produce from local farmers including sweet corn, field tomatoes, and peaches.  Beef, turkey, bread, eggs, and some dairy products are also purchased locally.

Mount Hope is also partnering with NOURISH, a non-profit organization, on a project to facilitate buying local and managing food waste.

Knowing the benefits, influences, and strategies to implement local food use is crucial for decision-makers in healthcare institutions to accomplish it successfully.  It is important to keep the conversation going to gain new perspectives and innovations to support buying local.

Written by Serenah Jafelice

Painting by Serenah Jafelice

References

  1. Trinca V, Duizer L, Keller H. Putting quality food on the tray: factors associated with patients’ perceptions of the hospital food experience. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2021 Jun 25; 00: 1-13. doi:10.1111/jhn.12929
  2. Linton E, Keller H, Duizer L. Ingredients for success: strategies to support local food use in health care institutions. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2018 Sep 1; 79(3): 113-117. doi:10.3148/cjdpr-2018-008

About the Author:  Serenah Jafelice is a volunteer with the MLFPC. She has a passion for healthy living and volunteers with various community groups and healthcare charities.  She has completed an Honours Specialization in Biology with a Minor in Genetics at Western University.  She is intrigued by the overlap between healthy eating, medicine, and lifestyle.  She loves communicating scientific information in a way that is easy to understand and helps people better their lives.

Planting For Our Pollinators And Our Future

A report to London’s City Council, on December 7th 2021, titled “Encouraging the Growing of Food in Urban Areas – City Wide”, resulted in amendments to London’s Official Plan and the London Zoning bylaw Z-1. As noted, in the opening paragraph of the report; the project focuses on the “Growing” component of London’s Urban Agriculture Strategy and is being considered under the Urban Agriculture Strategy’s guiding principle to develop supportive municipal policies, regulations, and bylaws, and remove policy barriers to urban agriculture.

By clarifying the conditions which allow for Greenhouses, Hoop Houses and Shipping Containers for the growing of food and relaxing the need for a building permit and site plan evaluation under certain circumstances, people will be closer to providing their own food security and food sovereignty within London’s Urban Growth Boundary. Property owners will also want to consult with their insurance providers to ensure that there are no further barriers and restrictions beyond the City’s jurisdiction.

While Friends of Urban Agriculture London (FUAL) complement the work of London’s Planning department and the City’s Council in their work to develop supportive municipal policies, regulations, and bylaws, and remove policy barriers to Urban Agriculture, we see this as one step of a work in progress.

The references to livestock in this report, essentially section 5.1 Overall Objectives, brought our attention to section 662 of London’s Official Plan. This statement restricts the keeping of livestock and pursuing animal husbandry activities within the Urban Place Types. This in turn restricts the citizens of London in their quest for food security and food sovereignty as well as affecting the work of a number of businesses, non-profit organizations and co-operatives that keep bees and raise other insects within the Urban Growth Boundary.

In early 2017, the Agriculture Advisory Committee sent a letter to council to recommend that Council request the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs review and amend the Ontario Bees Act to allow Ontario municipalities to create their own bylaws which could permit urban beekeeping. Later in 2017, the “original final draft” of London’s Urban Agriculture Strategy also recommended that Council “Consider an Official Plan amendment and any other regulatory amendments to permit the keeping of livestock within urban areas of the city.”

Many of the vegetables that we grow and eat do not require pollination. But, if we wish to grow fruit vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and melons, in a greenhouse, we have to ask: “Who will provide the pollination?”.

This blog post is part of “Examining Updates To London’s Urban Agriculture Bylaw – A Collaborative Series”. View other blog posts in the series at mlfpc.ca/blog

Would you want to be a future collaborator on this series? Send us an email at info@mlfpc.ca and include “ATTN: Request to Collaborate on Examining Updates To London’s Urban Agriculture Bylaw!” in your subject line.

 

Cultivating Equity Through Land Access

Last December, London City Council passed amendments to the London Plan and Zoning By-law to make it easier for Londoners to grow food in the city. The amendments focused on the regulations for growing food within the urban growth boundary, the development and use of greenhouses in association with urban agriculture, and shipping containers used to grow food in association with urban agriculture. These welcomed amendments are an important step in moving the Urban Agriculture Strategy forward, easing barriers and providing much-needed clarity for urban agriculture throughout London.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the lack of access to affordable food. The need for improved access to fresh, high-quality produce has never been greater. As a non-profit focused on utilizing underused land to grow food, Urban Roots London is encouraged to see the City of London continuing to embrace urban agriculture. It is especially exciting to have more flexibility for greenhouse and shipping container growing barriers, allowing urban growers to extend their growing season or grow year-round.

While acknowledging the amendments are a significant step forward, we also encourage continued action on other urban agricultural issues to further the Urban Agriculture Strategy. For example, developing processes for growing food in city boulevards, growing and selling in city parks, creating food hubs, reducing application fees and development charges for urban agriculture, and financial support for soil tests would reduce the barriers and provide opportunities to strengthen the local food system. In addition, we need to continue to make it easier for all Londoners and organizations to access and use land to improve food security in response to the climate emergency.

And these changes may not be far away. Recently, the City has collaborated with Hutton House and the Kensington Neighbourhood to establish the Cavendish Park Food Hub. The proposed precedent-setting agreement between the City and local organizations to use city-owned land for urban agriculture will open doors to use this model throughout the city.

While we continue to push for simplicity and reduce barriers, we also need to ensure we use a transparent and equitable approach that takes into consideration everyone’s barriers. Developing a fair and equitable process for organizations and community groups, especially those led by equity-deserving groups, to access and license city-owned land for non-profit urban agriculture will let us all work to improve food security.

This blog post is part of “Examining Updates To London’s Urban Agriculture Bylaw – A Collaborative Series”. View other blog posts in the series at mlfpc.ca/blog

Would you want to be a future collaborator on this series? Send us an email at info@mlfpc.ca and include “ATTN: Request to Collaborate on Examining Updates To London’s Urban Agriculture Bylaw!” in your subject line.

Growing Food in Your Backyard is Now as Easy as A – B – C

Thanks to recent changes in the City of London By-laws, growing food on urban land just got a lot easier. This short guide will bring you through the A-B-C’s of urban agriculture and how it applies to you, your family, and your community at large. There are plenty of great reasons to begin growing fruits and vegetables at home, from reduced grocery costs to increased nutritional value in the fresh food; but how can one do this reliably when it snows six months a year? 

Assess Your Space

One of the major changes is the recognition of “Urban Agriculture” and its application to all areas within the City of London’s urban growth boundary. This allows for the growing of food on lands, in greenhouses and shipping containers, within buildings and on rooftops throughout the city.*

If you have a large plot of land in your backyard, you may be able to build a greenhouse up to 200m2 with a streamlined scoped site plan process, reducing the submission requirements to avoid unnecessary studies being prepared. Shipping containers may also be converted and used in all areas of the city to grow food; however, a more detailed site plan approval is required. See the MLFPC website for a breakdown on the limitations to greenhouse and shipping container locations.

Bloom with a Buddy

Once you have a garden space located, research what plants will thrive in that given location. Consider the amount of sunlight, water, and space your plants will need when configuring your garden. Companion Planting is an easy and effective way to boost your garden’s output and naturally protect it from bugs; check out the Farmers’ Almanac for a chart of different vegetables that grow well together!

If you support urban agriculture, but simply don’t have the space or time to maintain a garden, consider planting a pollinator garden on your property. These low-maintenance gardens provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies and help keep their populations healthy. The David Suzuki website has curated a list of native plants that thrive in these gardens!

Compost Your Waste

Organic yard and kitchen waste make up about 30% of the waste disposed of by Canadian households. (Source: Taking stock: Reducing food loss and waste in Canada – Canada.ca

Composting this waste can make a nutritious meal for your gardens while saving you space in your garbage can. Improperly disposed of food waste produces harmful greenhouse gases over time but is avoided when composting. Soil from compost is full of organic nutrients for plants and has high water-retention ability, making your gardens more drought-resistant. 

The City of London sells composting bins at each Enviro Depot location, starting from $20 each (taxes included). See the City of London Enviro Depot website to learn about compostable vs. non-compostable materials!

This blog post is part of “Examining Updates To London’s Urban Agriculture Bylaw – A Collaborative Series”. View other blog posts in the series at mlfpc.ca/blog

Would you want to be a future collaborator on this series? Send us an email at info@mlfpc.ca and include “ATTN: Request to Collaborate on Examining Updates To London’s Urban Agriculture Bylaw!” in your subject line.


 

Food Literacy – Now Included in Ontario’s Science Curriculum

A win for Ontario kids! On March 8, 2022, the Ontario government released its plan to update the province’s elementary science curriculum to include lessons on food literacy taught. What does this mean?

The new curriculum will be implemented in September 2022. Students from Grades 1-8 will have the opportunity to learn about agriculture, biodiversity, and climate change with a food systems lens. For example:

  • Grade 3 students will learn about soil health management and assess the benefits and limitations of locally grown food. They will also explore various plants and foods traditionally grown by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
  • Grade 5 students will develop the food literacy skills necessary for making informed decisions on physical and mental health behaviours.
  • Grade 6 students will discover how biodiversity interacts with agriculture and climate change.
  • Grade 7 students will explore how ecosystems are impacted by various methods of agricultural and food harvesting practices.
  • Grade 8 students will be introduced to food processing systems.

These changes come after Bill 216, Food Literacy for Students Act, 2020, passed its second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. This bill amends the Education Act to ensure students from Grades 1-12 have opportunities to learn about food through experiential learning activities. Currently, Bill 216 is being reviewed by a standing committee. It will have to then be reported to House, undergo a third reading, and require royal assent before it officially becomes law.

Although there’s more to do before Bill 216 becomes law, we hope that these curriculum changes foreshadow a positive outcome. In the meantime, we are pleased to see the Ontario government acting now to ensure Ontario kids learn how to connect to food. Developing food literacy skills is vital for kids to improve individual and community health. Preparing tomorrow’s food leaders for making meaningful changes in our food system starts in the classroom.

For more information on the curriculum changes, check out: https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001722/ontario-modernizing-school-science-curriculum and https://sustainontario.com/2022/03/11/food-literacy-included-in-new-gr-1-8-ontario-science-and-technology-curriculum/

To learn more about how a bill becomes law in Ontario, please see: https://www.ola.org/sites/default/files/common/how-bills-become-law-en.pdf

Written by Julissa Litterick

Celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day

A letter from Agriculture More Than Ever:

Canada’s Agriculture Day is back!

Last year, the entire ag industry celebrated across the country, shared our pride, opened doors to new food conversations, and trended nationally on Twitter. And we can’t wait to do it again in 2022.
Join us on Tuesday, February 22 as we raise a fork to the food we love.

Connecting with consumers

Canada’s Agriculture Day is a time to showcase all the amazing things happening in the industry and help consumers see the connection to where their food comes from and the people who produce it. Consumers want to learn more, and this day is a great way to start the conversation.

Here are just a few ways you can get involved:

  • Post a photo, make a video, or write a blog. Share what you’re doing on social media using the hashtag #CdnAgDay.
  • Encourage your friends to show-off their culinary talents using all-Canadian ingredients.
  • Teach someone something new about agriculture. Share your knowledge and story with others.

These ideas are only suggestions – come up with your own ways to share your passion for ag and inspire others to join the conversation. It’s all about celebrating Canadian agriculture and food in engaging, fun and respectful ways.

For more inspiration, visit AgDay.ca

We can’t wait to celebrate with you on February 22!

AgDay.ca | #CdnAgDay

 

 

Download letter as PDF

 

Interview with Nadine Castonguay, EnviroWestern Garden Executive and Food System Champion 2021

Nadine Castonguay, EnviroWestern Garden Executive at Western University, was selected as a Food System Champion in 2021.

Recently, Nadine led the development of the community garden located at Western University. She worked with various stakeholders across campus to organize a new and more visible location for the EnviroWestern Garden and took care of the land from watering and weeding to managing student volunteers throughout the summer. You can learn more about her positive impact on the local food system at mlfpc.ca/foodchampions.

Q: What drew you into doing work in the food system?

A: My passions for food and the environment collide. I wanted to create a system on campus to facilitate knowledge generation and dissemination where the community could come to understand the complex dynamics of our food including the links between the economic, social, and environmental elements of how food is sourced.

Q: What do you like most about your food system work?  

A: My favourite part about food system work is the actual production of something that provides us with what we need to sustain human life. It’s crazy that we can produce outputs that contain nutrients that allow us to thrive. I appreciate that without the food system, we would not survive.

Q: What works well in Middlesex London to support your work?

A: I appreciate that there is a growing community of individuals who want to see more organic and locally sourced food available. There is a market of opportunity for new businesses to venture into sustainable agriculture.

Q: Are there local challenges that make your job more difficult?

A: There are significant barriers for new farmers such as increased land prices, the lack of knowledge around the definition of sustainable food production, and what it looks like to have a sustainable food production operation.

Q: What would you like to see in our local community to strengthen our food system?

A: I would like to see a greater emphasis on allowing individuals to grow and produce their own food in the city. For example, having more rooftop gardens, increasing the number of community gardens, and developing agricultural opportunities in neighbourhoods within London.

The Differences Associated with Muslims Celebrating Ramadan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For the second year in a row, Muslims celebrated the holy month of Ramadan during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this month, Muslims typically gather to strengthen their faith and beliefs alongside the members of their communities. Still, unfortunately, due to the lockdowns and safety regulations enforced on worship centers and public gatherings, many Muslims were restricted from getting together to celebrate. As Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims found alternative methods to participate in communal worship, offer charity, and keep the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan alive.

Ramadan is a month-long holiday where Muslims celebrate abstaining from worldly desires such as food, water, and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset, in addition to refraining from committing immoral acts and sins and using vulgar language. During this holy time, Muslims focus on strengthening their faith through charity, worship, reflection, and obtaining more knowledge about their religion and beliefs.

During previous years, many Muslims gravitated towards Mosques to pray and break their fasts together, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns, this was no longer possible for the duration of the holy month in 2021. Although challenging, Muslims developed alternative methods to stay close and in touch with other members of their communities for worship and prayer. Mosque executives and volunteers created and organized programs and events and scheduled prayers through video streaming applications such as zoom and YouTube, which allowed people to join and participate virtually. Although it wasn’t exactly the same, these types of programs proved beneficial as they allowed individuals to feel connected to their communities and as if they belonged to something greater than themselves. Some Mosques even opted to schedule informational seminars on self-care and healthy diets, in addition to topics relating to Islamic history and practices, to ensure the well-being of the community.

During this month, Muslims would normally donate and offer charity by preparing food for their community and then distributing it at Mosques. As the COVID-19 restrictions prevented Muslims from gathering to break their fasts together, families decided to either independently prepare food or just order meals from restaurants and then deliver them to their friends’ and families’ houses before sunset. In fact, some Mosques had even developed a program where people could donate money, and Mosque executives and volunteers would in turn purchase pre-made meals from restaurants at a discounted price. Volunteers would then deliver and distribute the meals to members of the community for families to enjoy after they break their fast.

Ramadan is a month where Muslims appreciate gathering with their community to strengthen and reinforce their faith and beliefs. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the public from celebrating together, Muslims persevered and established programs and systems that allowed them to maintain a strong sense of community to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive.

Written By: Maryam Namazifard

Maryam is going into her fourth year studying Nutrition and Dietetics at Brescia University College, and enjoys gardening, baking, and exploring new cities! She has a strong belief that comprehensive nutritional literacy skills promote the development of healthy dietary habits, and therefore works with elementary schools to create workshops that allow young students to gain valuable food literacy skills. Additionally, Maryam contributes to researching the impacts of COVID-19 on the food sector, and examines the effects of subsequent government policies and support programs available for food retail businesses. Maryam has been a volunteer with the MLFPC since March 2021, and hopes to use her skills for the development and advancement of the community!