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The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table (GWFRT) is a network for coordinated action for a socially just and environmentally sustainable community food system. This introduction to the round table is an excerpt from a community research assignment I completed in the fall in an introductory food security course at Ryerson University. You can find out more about the GWFRT here or about Ryerson’s online food security certificate here.  

Background

The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table’s focus is on individuals experiencing food insecurity, food producers, and youth. It was established in April 2009 partly in response to pressures and issues facing the Guelph Food Bank and area food pantries as the most recent recession resulted in a large and growing population of low-income people who faced barriers to accessing healthy food in Guelph and Wellington County. The round table has six strategic directions and supports the development of a thriving food system through advocacy, action, planning, education, networking and coordination.

Food Policy

The food policy working group formed in October 2009 and its main achievement to date is the creation of the Guelph-Wellington Food Charter. The Charter is premised on six fundamental principles, or pillars – health, education, sustainable economic development, environment, culture, and social justice. The Charter was unveiled in June 2010 and introduced to the public in October at Food on the Table, a facilitated dialogue attended by approximately 20 electoral candidates and 75 community members.

Community Gardens

The community gardens working group formed in April 2009. It prepared and submitted a proposal and, as a result, four sites were approved for a two-year pilot project. Fundraising efforts covered the purchase of things such as fencing, tools, sheds, some seeds/plants, and straw. Straw and green manure were purchased via a buying group type of purchase.  Technology was also a factor and the community garden’s group list-serve was a resource for plant and seed sharing; it also played a role in education, problem-solving, meeting reminders, minutes, etc.

The gardens were used by adults, children and youth and enhanced participants food and nutrition knowledge and skill, as well as community cohesion. There were no more than 15 plots at any site and, not surprisingly, demand outstripped supply.

Food Accessibility

The food accessibility working group formed in October 2009 and its purpose is to increase food security for people of low income in Guelph and Wellington. The group recently developed a food access guide/directory, which it also hopes to publish online.

Another project  in the works is a collective kitchens manual. Collective kitchens are a way to address local food needs and provide access to nutritious and healthy food. Generally, people come together once or twice a month to prepare food in bulk. They are a way to reduce costs, learn cooking and nutrition skills and socialize.

Distribution

The distribution group was formed in October 2009 to increase the availability and accessibility of local food and strengthen the connections within the local food system. It setup two neighbourhood markets in the summer of 2010.

Conclusion

Ultimately, both urban and rural interests need to be involved in a collaboration to build a sustainable food secure community and region where everyone has access to healthy nutritious food. The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table network has close to 50 stakeholders. It’s early in the process; however, within the working groups, the overall round table, and the coordinating committee the five food security analysis factors outlined in Ryerson University’s introductory food security course – availability, accessibility, acceptability, appropriateness and agency – are being addressed.

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