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

Would you want to be a future collaborator on this series? Send us an email at 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

Would you want to be a future collaborator on this series? Send us an email at 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 –

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

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


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!

The Great Big Crunch – London

Did you know that Canada is the only G7 country without a national school food program?

MLFPC is proud to show its support for a national school food program as part of the 2021 Great Big Crunch on March 11. It’s an opportunity to show solidarity with educators and families advocating for robust student nutrition programs. This work couldn’t be more important for Canadian families and communities.

It is oddly uncharacteristic for Canada not to have a strong national school food program. We are noted for having equitable health care, yet we’re missing key components to a safe and flourishing childhood, which is just as much of an equity issue with similarly long-lasting benefits. And the intersections between access to fresh and nutritious food, physical and mental health, and the capacity to learn, are well-known  (The Coalition for Healthy School Food’s website provides an overview of this issue). And given our commitment to good governance and effective, value-producing investment, it is strange that we have not yet created a robust system of school nutrition programs that will help lay a foundation for flourishing families and communities. Canada could be—and should be—a leader in this field.

Instead, we find ourselves 37th among the wealthiest 41 countries pursuing Sustainable Development Goal 2 “Zero Hunger” according to UNICEF Canada’s 2017 analysis. The most recent data on this topic, the World Food Program’s State of School Feeding Worldwide 2020 (published on 24 February 2021) clearly shows how “school feeding programmes provide the world’s most extensive safety net” (196) and contribute directly to a community’s resiliency and ability to respond to and weather emergencies. It is well-known how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing food insecurities and significantly increased the need for emergency hunger relief. The absence of a national school food program has hampered Canada’s ability to respond to this food crisis, and its continued absence will inhibit our response to crises in the future.

Even during “normal times,” school food programs are effective investments and provide exceptionally good value for their money. Well-managed programs, return approximately $9 of value for every $1 invested according to a recent (2018) World Bank analysis. It is difficult to identify other investments that would benefit our communities with a 900% rate of return. In addition, school food programs are often drivers of increased jobs and economic activity, especially when they are coupled with local procurement policies as MLFPC advocates. According to some estimates, school food programs directly create approximately 2000 jobs for every 100 000 children fed, which is approximately the number of students within the Thames Valley region.  At the same time, with only 30% of school food purchases currently being made locally, it is estimated that a national school food program built on local procurement could contribute $4.8 billion to Canadian agriculture by 2029.

Canada is one of the leading agricultural producers in the world and Southwestern Ontario is one of the most productive and diverse agricultural regions in Canada. Imagine how much economic vitality local procurement for a national school food program would contribute to our London Middlesex community. Now imagine how much that fresh, local, nutritious food would contribute to our community’s students and families.

Join MLFPC on March 11 for a special virtual Great Big Crunch event. Check our FB page for details. For more information on the national school food program, check out the Coalition for Healthy School Food website.

To register, visit:


Global Food, Local Perspectives: Reimagine Co

The second segment of our food and culture series features Heenal Rajani, co-founder of Reimagine Co. Once a temporary pop-up shop, Reimagine Co has planted its roots within North Talbot’s neighbourhood with the recent reveal of their package-free grocery store. While Reimagine Co remains a local staple of the Middlesex-London community, the story of its creation has much deeper international roots.

After leaving England in 2009, Heenal travelled the globe before devoting his time to leading volunteer trips to build bottle schools in Guatemala. It was on those trips that Heenal met his partner and Reimagine Co co-founder Kara Rijnen. After volunteering together, the duo established a long-distance relationship when Heenal relocated to India. Heenal and Kara reconnected in Canada and set out to live a package-free lifestyle as their New Year’s resolution for 2017. While Heenal transitioned to life in Canada, Kara spent time on maternity leave, which allowed her to make multiple stops to stick to their package-free resolution. Able to shop at various grocers during this period, the couple soon discovered how difficult it was to do all their shopping in a single stop for others, not in their position. With a shared passion for the environment combined with Heenal’s background in community development and Kara’s in business, they set out to open a small shop in early 2018 at the historic Novack’s store site. The venture blossomed, and within three years and help from the local community, Reimagine Co arrived at 206 Piccadilly Street, their current location.

Reimagine Co’s story is one of both a community-led grassroots organization and commitment to teaching about local food systems. “Part of what we’re trying to do with Reimagine Co is reimagine that shopping experience,” Heenal remarked during the initial moments of our discussion. Reimagine Co doesn’t just offer a progressive and eco-friendly shopping experience; there are also additional workshops and outreach programs that Heenal and Kara have committed to since establishing Reimagine Co. When discussing the more than 50 free workshops that have been hosted by Reimagine Co Heenal went on to say, “we are trying to get away from that transactional nature, this is supposed to be a gift for the community.” The community has been a large driver of Reimagine Co’s success. While their biggest demographic is persons in their 40’s, Heenal remarked that their customers often come from a wide range of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Each customer embarks on their own unique adventure, whether it’s a newcomer’s first journey into a more sustainable lifestyle or a long-time customer stopping by for a routine shop.

Although Heenal and Kara are focused on the present, he offered some insight into the future of the store and their participation within the Middlesex-London food system. “We’re both the same; we’re kind of more go with the flow type people,” Heenal added before sharing a few plans for the future. Not only do these plans include expanding the offers at their store, including more international selections, but they also include several community development initiatives, including the creation of a “Thing Library” in partnership with TREA and support of the City of London. Another endeavour is pursuing grants for collaborative food security projects such as urban agriculture. Given the ongoing pandemic and its threat to local food systems, Heenal commented that their main goal is still to ensure the store’s stability. “Right now, we are trying to break even; it’s not easy to run a business like this, especially in the middle of a pandemic. It’s difficult, very, very difficult,” he said as we neared the ending of our discussion.

Written by Matthew Moncrieffe: Matthew Moncrieffe is a volunteer with the MLFPC. He graduated from Western University (King’s University College) with an Honours Specialization in Political Science and is presently pursuing an MSc in Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph. He has held positions in both the foodservice industry as well as food distribution centres. He currently focuses his efforts on understanding food deserts; accessible food for regional and national communities; empowering and mobilizing both restaurateurs and food producers through utilizing social media; and supporting, contextualizing and developing interactions between Indigenous communities and local food systems.

Global Food, Local Perspectives: Momos at the Market

For this first segment of our food and culture project, we will be interviewing the owner and chef of Momos at the Market, Yam Gurung. Momo’s at the market serves healthy but delicious traditional Nepalese food at the London Food Incubator and the Western Fair’s Farmers Market. Specializing in Momos (meat or vegetable-filled dumplings), this restaurant has been serving London locals for over 12 years.

Yam, born and raised in Nepal started his culinary journey around the age of 8-9 years old. By age 12, he had left home to start cooking in restaurants and has worked in the food industry ever since. After working in multiple restaurants, Yam felt inspired and motivated to help fellow new immigrants get situated comfortably in Canada. Upon reflection on his own experiences, he wanted to provide new immigrants opportunities that are not always readily available. One essential value for Yam in creating Momos at the market was providing new immigrants with training and adding to their skillset in preparation for future employment. Yam has made it a point to treat his employees with respect, regardless of their cultural background or duration of time in Canada, including fair payment of employees.

Yam’s food philosophy is simple: sell what you eat. He would not sell food that he doesn’t find delicious, meaning you’ll always be in for a treat at Momos. In addition, Yam finds importance in connecting with the community and purchasing ingredients from local producers. Being located at the Western Fair Market and the London Food Incubator has helped Yam connect further with the community. When he began his journey at the Western Fair market, Yam indicated that he didn’t know anyone in the food industry. No one was there to teach him the ropes about the restaurant business. However, through perseverance in pursuit of bringing his homeland’s cuisine to London, he pressed on, and thus we see the Momos at the market we have today.

When asked why it is crucial to learn about other people’s food and culture, Yam replied that that’s how you get to know people. Food in itself is a language, and by trying and understanding people’s food and culture, you build community. At the time of this interview, one dish that Yam was interested in learning is the art of sushi making. We are happy to report Momo’s at the Market is now selling sushi trays for New Years!

As for the future of Momos at the Market, Yam hopes to expand to other markets shortly. The beauty of these markets is that they’re able to display various types of food and cultures. Everyone who sells gets a chance to show and share their food with multiple people who may have never tried these cuisines. Although there might seem like a competition between vendors within these markets, everyone brings something new and unique to the table. 

Yam’s stories about Momos at the market are inspiring and highlight the importance of supporting local vendors and the plentitude of Markets within the Middlesex-London community. The food industry has been hit immensely due to the pandemic. Markets are not only sources of food distribution and foodservice, but they often serve as community centers, education opportunities and, in general, a place of connection. We strongly urge you to show love and support for your local market and vendors as these places keep our community healthy. For a list of markets within the area, you can view our food directory here. 


Global Food, Local Perspectives Introduction

Our goal at MLFPC is to create a just and sustainable food system that serves all the residents in our community. We take this commitment very seriously—every member, every volunteer, and every supporter of the Council wants to see our food system working for our entire community and is dedicating their time, energy, and hard work in pursuit of this goal. But we also want to be working with the community as a whole—we want to fully include every voice and every perspective on what constitutes a just, equitable, and sustainable food system and on how best to achieve it.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police has spotlighted the systemic racism entrenched in our legal and social institutions, Canada not excepted. At the MLFPC, we want to do more for this movement rather than primarily drafting and releasing statements of solidarity. We are committed to acknowledging Middlesex-London’s BIPOC communities in ways that are valuable to them while correlating with our mission, vision and values.

We’re working towards specific actions that break down institutionalized racism and lead to improved DEI within our operations and sphere of influence. Acknowledging that food has been used as a weapon and tool of oppression and that the Canadian food system has long been, and continues to be, infected by structural racism and inequities, is the first step, but only a first step. We welcome suggestions and comments from you of actions that we can take to continue down that pathway.

Here in this blog series, we would like to offer a collection of interviews with local BIPOC community leaders and food activists, chefs and restauranteurs, and farmers and foodservice professionals discussing food, our local food system, and the ways that a more just, equitable, and sustainable food system within our community may be achieved. We hope that by showcasing their voices and work, more will rally behind their leadership and that we all can move closer to achieving the food system we aspire to have. We’re delighted to get to know these members of our community better and to join them in building a better society. We hope that you will enjoy reading and following this series as much as we have in bringing it to you.