Sowing Seeds of Change: Meet Our Food System Champion, the PATCH!

The PATCH, MLFPC's Food System ChampionThe idea for a community-driven urban farm was born during the pandemic when Joe Gansevles recognized the need for accessible food in the London area. From bylaws, to being on a floodplain, to a lack of funding, challenges seemed to pop up at every corner. However, with the help of community members they were able to overcome these obstacles and form the PATCH!

The PATCH is an urban agricultural initiative that does more than just grow food at their three London locations; they also host events & workshops,The PATCH Cavendish community food hub location Sign provide employment training, and cultivate a safe space for volunteers and community members to garden and meet new people. Their stunning Cavendish Community Food Hub location is equipped with wheelchair-accessible gardens, follows eco-conscious practices, and has generated thousands of pounds of fresh produce this year!

The PATCH is committed to sustainability, inclusivity, and resourcefulness, with inclusivity being reflected in their garden layout that features wheelchair-Wheelchair accessible plots for gardeningaccessible pots, raised garden beds, and roomy pathways to ensure participation from individuals of all abilities. Their Cavendish location exemplifies resourceful practices by repurposing donated wooden pallets as materials for garden beds, and redirecting waste as soil-enriching compost that is donated by The Wormery at the Western Fair District (thanks, Dan!). Committed to sustainability, they primarily deliver their produce to organizations by bicycle, clocking over 750k miles. Among their partnerships, they generously contribute their harvest to organizations such as the London Food Bank, Ark Aid Mission, and Indwell . It is truly a community effort!

The PATCH’s dedication is evident: they’ve generously donated 3,000 lbs of food this year, and are aiming for 5,000 lbs this year. Their vision includes expanding their planters and introducing an inclusive tactile gardenCavendish Community Hub location of the PATCH designed for all to enjoy, regardless of sensory limitations. Additionally, they have plans for a streamlined irrigation system. 

As for the future, they envision a city where the overlooked corners and plots can become repurposed as food hubs. They encourage communities, universities, and employers to replicate this model, ensuring economical access to healthy food for all communities. When talking about the PATCH’s long term plams Joe Gansevles says,

“I would think that if we had a long-term plan for this space is that it could be a template for urban agriculture in the city. To look at spaces that you maybe you wouldn’t look at it with first glance and think, “Oh, you could grow a significant amount of food there” So, I would hope that this is something that co-The PATCH's team at the Cavendish Community Huboperative housing complexes could have, that a university could have, that large-scale employers that have land that they could re-purpose and utilise for their workforce. Our long term plan would be that we can live in a city where there’s easy economical access to food for people, and this is an open-patent design. People can come and they can liberate what we’ve done and they can do it in their neighbourhoods, schools, and workforce. 

So, I think our long term plan is there’s a whole bunch of these, and people having access to healthy foods. They don’t have to decide whether they are going to pay their bills or get healthy food”.

It’s clear to see that the PATCH’s growth and success is the result of the hardwork and  dedication from its employees, volunteers, and community supporters. It stands as an amazing model for what can be achieved in a short amount of time through community cooperation. We can’t wait to see what is next in store for the PATCH and how it will continue to evolve!


Animal & Community Ally: Meet our Food System Champion, Zhawanoogbiik Danielle Riley of Riley Ranch of Three Fires!

Danielle Riley is MLFPC's Food System ChampionSixteen-year-old Zhawanoogbiik Danielle Riley embodies the spirit of compassion and community care. She has demonstrated great initiative as a Food System Champion by helping connect others with the resources they need to care for their animals.

From Chippewas of the Thames, an Anishinaabe First Nations band government, her childhood dream was to be able to care for animals in her own business. During the pandemic, it became apparent to Danielle that there was great need for pet supplies, including pet food, from pet owners who were struggling due to the economic downturn.

In response to the fast-growing need, she was able to raise donations to supply those who were facing challenges in accessing the things they needed for their animals and started her initiative, an animal food bank.

The shelves of her food bank tell a powerful story, reflecting the growing demand for support. In July 2022, 120 bags of dog food were distributed. Dani’s commitment shines, whether connecting people with resources, envisioning warmer shelters for outdoor pets, or exploring paths toward healing through her love for animals. She hopes that she can continue to connect others with the resources and care that they need.

Pollination Heroes: Meet our Buzzworthy Food System Champion, the Middlesex Centre Pollinator Team!

Food System Champions Middlesex Centre Pollinator TeamThe Middlesex Centre Pollinator Team has truly shined in supporting our local food system.

Their journey began in 2019, driven by the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, a pledge made to show Middlesex Centre’s commitment to champion the care of our native pollinators. Through their dedicated work, they have created a positive impact in the London-Middlesex community, centred around education and the nurturing of natural pollinator habitats.

They’ve set out to achieve three overarching goals.
1. To grow and share native plants from seed that support pollinators.
2. To promote the wellbeing and flourishing of pollinators.
3. To educate the community about the web of interdependence within our ecosystem between us, native plants, and native pollinators, emphasising how our support can pave the way for a better environment now and in the future.

To achieve these goals and engage the community in their mission, they have established many different programs such as selling pollinator plants at the Komoka Community Market in the summer and having annual compost sales. They also partner with many community organizations to host educational events on a variety of different topics. Visit their website to find a variety of resources, including where you can buy native plants near you and how you can create a pollinator garden of your own! There you will also find a list of upcoming events to join.

The Middlesex Centre Pollinator team has been doing an amazing job of not only creating a healthier food system for now, but one that is strong and sustainable for the future. We are excited to see what else they have in store!

Championing Sustainable Food: Meet Our Food System Champion, On The Move Organics!

On the Move Organics Food System Champion of MLFPCOn The Move Organics, founded in 2008 by Jeff Pastorius, is on a mission to rebuild Ontario’s local food system by connecting with local farmers. Starting with bike deliveries in the Old East Village, the company expanded to offer groceries and delivery vehicles as demand grew.

What sets them apart is their strong commitment to sustainability. Through their Zero Waste Club, they save over 23,000 single-use plastic containers annually. Serving southwestern Ontario, they source from 125+ local farmers, producers, suppliers, and artisans.

On the move organics food box

During COVID-19, On The Move Organics partnered with LIFE*SPIN to launch “The Community Food Box Program”, delivering fresh produce and groceries to families facing financial struggles. The program, funded by customer donations and their own 1% “For The Community” initiative, has provided over 60,000 meals to date. Their business practices prioritize sourcing locally and reducing food waste by collaborating with restaurants and featuring rotating menus showcasing locally-grown crops. Community involvement is central to their ethos, and they host events and workshops while supporting local businesses.

Looking ahead, they plan to add a pollinator garden near LOLA Bees, exploreOn the Move Organics Team with food boxes non-carbon delivery options like bike deliveries and electric alternatives, and improve efficiency in their warehouse to reduce food waste and environmental impact. With a dedicated focus on locality and community outreach, On The Move Organics aims to make positive strides in the food system for years to come.  Check out On The Move Organics’ website for more information: On The Move Organics.

Uniting for Sustainability: Meet Our Food System Champion, The London Food Co-Op!

London Food Coop Ontario Food System Champion of MLFPCThe London Food Co-op, a member-owned grocery store, has been supplying affordable, ethically sourced, and Fair Trade products to London families since 1970. For over half a century, it has prioritized local, organic foods, and originated as a buying club for those keen to know where their food comes from. Today, it remains committed to these principles, supporting local farms and small businesses in Ontario, offering everything from organic meat to maple syrup.

Believing in the possibility of sustainable consumption, the Co-op features a large bulk section for reusable containers and encourages shoppers to bring their own bags. It caters to various dietary needs and promotes environmental responsibility by composting waste and offering non-toxic supplies. It engages youth through an active internship program and provides affordable options with a ‘price-it-yourself’ produce area. Membership is kept accessible at a $10 quarterly fee.

London Food Coop Sign being put upThe Co-op is planning to host a variety of community events in the future such as urban gardening workshops and hopes to introduce a teaching kitchen for cooking demonstrations. As a community-based, not-for-profit grocery store, the London Food Co-op fosters consumer-producer relationships, prioritizing people’s needs over corporate profits. This not only allows shoppers to feel good about their groceries, but also promotes health and sustainability. Visit them at 621 Princess Avenue and experience first-hand how the London Food Co-op is not just a store, but a movement, nurturing a healthier, more sustainable, and more connected community one grocery trip at a time.

“Canada is food and the world is richer for it.” – Anita Stewart, founder Food Day Canada

On August 5, 2023, the nation is celebrating Food Day Canada—a day of appreciation for the bounty of Canadian produce and the people who produce it! Although Food Day Canada has been observed for 20 years, this year marks the first iteration of the event as a nationally recognized day of celebration.

It’s no coincidence that Food Day Canada falls on the August long weekend, which sees families and friends come together to revel in the last weeks of summer. In honour of Food Day Canada, why not pledge to buy, cook, and eat Canadian this holiday long weekend?
Food Day Canada was founded by the late Anita Stewart (1947-2020), a food journalist, activist, historian, radio personality, and Food Laureate at the University of Guelph (appointed 2012). In 2003, Stewart held “The World’s Longest BBQ” to celebrate and support Canada’s beef producers after an outbreak of mad cow diseases (BSE) rocked the industry.

What began as a one-time grassroots event, expanded to become an annual event celebrating the wider Canadian food industry, as well as a registered non-profit organization under the same name, Food Day Canada. 

Food Day Canada’s values include celebrating Canadian-made foods and beverages, and the Canadians who farm and manufacture them. The organization also supports research and education surrounding Canada’s food cultures, fostering sustainable food practices and food security, and promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion in the industry.

The organization’s website aims to make shopping and dining Canadian easier by featuring a variety of recipes that call for Canadian produce, and an interactive map and list showcasing restaurants, markets, and venues that will be observing Food Day Canada with special menus and activities. You will find London’s own Abruzzi restaurant featured there!

Canadians are also welcomed to show their support of the Canadian Food industry, by pledging “to support Food Day Canada and shine a light on Canadian food and farming.” Pledge as a ‘proud Canadian’ or as a farmer, food-related organisation, restaurant, or retailer. Organisations or businesses that pledge their support are recognized as ‘Food Day Canada pledge partners’ and may use the Food Day Canada logo and brand in their promotions for their August 5th events. Finally, you can make your support for Canadian food known using the #FoodDayCanada hashtag this long weekend, and tagging @FoodDayCanada in posts celebrating the national food scene and the people who make it possible.

Food Day Canada comes along at a time of widespread uncertainty in international food markets, which together with economic inflation, is pushing up grocery costs and making it harder for Canadians to purchase food according to their values (such as buying local).

For us at the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, every day is ‘food day.’ As Stewart said, “Canada is food,” and each day represents another opportunity to learn why supporting our local and national food producers is essential to improving the economic condition of this country and its citizens. We hope that the newly, nationally-recognized Food Day Canada will foster the appreciation and conversation needed to make Canadian food a daily and not just annual celebration.

By Siobhan Watters

Empowering Communities through Agriculture: Meet Our Food System Champion Ilana Guslits!

Meet Ilana Guslits, the Garden Programs Coordinator at Growing Chefs! Ontario, and a true inspiration when it comes to supporting our local food system. Ilana manages the learning garden and two greenhouses, providing a great educational experience for students, volunteers, and coworkers alike.
In 2022, Ilana’s Garden Education Program achieved these remarkable milestones:
  • 1000 community boxes delivered
  • 3000 lbs of fresh food harvested
  • 2000 lbs of Food Bank donations rescued from the landfill
  • 150 hours of therapeutic farming and job skills training provided
  • +5000 participants and volunteers involved in job skills training lead by Ilana
Originally from London, Ilana returned in 2019 to be closer to her family and raise her daughter. With over 8 years of experience in agriculture, spanning both rural and urban settings, she seamlessly combines her passion for growing beautiful food with her love for community work as the Garden Program Coordinator. From leading school field trips through the Learning Gardens to harvesting fresh produce for families in need, Ilana embraces the opportunity to get her hands dirty while educating everyone about the significance of local food.
One project that truly ignites Ilana’s passion is the community food box program. This initiative cultivates culturally-relevant crops for bi-weekly harvest, reaching out to families in need, especially newcomers. Now in its second year, Ilana envisions expanding this program by transforming more underutilized urban spaces into productive gardens. By doing so, she aims to foster agricultural education and employment opportunities in our urban centre, empowering individuals who seldom see themselves represented as leaders in our food system’s production stages.
Ilana Guslits, with her endless commitment and passion, is a true Food System Champion. Let’s celebrate her remarkable work and continue to grow a sustainable and green future together.

Growing Together: Meet Our Young Food System Champions, John and Evelyn!

Introducing John (9) and Evelyn (3), our local food heroes!
These amazing siblings have taken an active role in learning and tending to their own vegetable garden. They not only appreciate the effort and ecosystem of our food chain, but also share their knowledge with the neighborhood.
Their family tradition of growing food has brought them together and allows everyone in their family to participate. Evelyn likes to plant seeds; she says her favourites are “corn and raspberries because I like to make raspberries for Johnny, and I like to eat corn!” John says “my family taught me to grow things, and I love to eat beans I can pick right off the plant!”
Their impact goes beyond their own garden; John and Evelyn love to give back to the community. They set up a stand at their driveway, offering veggies for donations that support local charities. They also deliver fresh produce and homemade seed bombs to their neighbors, spreading generosity and kindness.

Evelyn dreams of expanding their garden to include broccoli and basil, while John has become knowledgeable about plant care and growth duration. Their efforts are making a big difference in our community!

Making a Difference: Meet Our Food System Champion, Quarter Master!

Quarter Master is a local sustainable food store that actively searches for local and sustainable food options while emphasizing biodegradable packaging and safe environmental practices. Founded in 1981 by Betty and Eric MacMillan, Quarter Master was established with the aim of providing Londoners with healthy diet options and nutritional information. Over the years, the store has undergone significant growth, and today, it is operated by their son, Tim MacMillan, who has expanded the store to offer a diverse range of grocery options, supplements, and herbal products.

Quarter Master has always prioritized supporting the Canadian organics market due to its numerous health and environmental benefits. The store strives to source a substantial portion of its products locally, especially within the produce and grocery sections. In recent years, Quarter Master has made a concentrated effort to implement sustainable practices within its operations. This includes transitioning to biodegradable and compostable packaging options, investing in backyard composting to manage kitchen and fresh produce scraps, and minimizing food waste by utilizing leftover and past-prime produce in freshly made take-out items.

Apart from its commitment to sustainable practices, QM actively participates in supporting the Wortley Village community through various events. However, the store is excited about future opportunities to expand its involvement beyond its familiar Old South home. Quarter Master’s primary focus at present is to ensure that its in-store practices serve to create a positive impact on the health of its customers, the community, and the planet!

Fueling Progress: Meet Our Food System Champions, Eat OA! X Anderson Craft Ales!

With a strong commitment to supporting local producers and small businesses within their city, the team at EatOA! And Anderson Craft Ales aim to showcase the amazing products offered by their community while raising awareness among their customer base.

Recognizing the limitations of their small kitchen, they reached out to local bakeries establishing strong partnerships with them. Additionally, they place a strong emphasis on using local produce by incorporating produce from vendors such as Slegers Greens, Common Ground, and Sun Gold Organic into their offerings. Their commitment to supporting the local food ecosystem is evident in their menus, where they highlight their vendors.

The team also goes above and beyond to champion local businesses and community initiatives. They actively participate in community projects and programs, such as Growing Chefs pizza night, where they contribute their expertise and resources to promote a sustainable food culture. They also support those in need and minimise food waste by donating any leftover products to Ark Aid mission.

Looking ahead, they plan to continue to maintain their emphasis on sourcing locally. They understand the value of supporting the community and believe that sourcing within the city and its surrounding areas not only benefits EatOA!, but the London community as well.