The Covid-19 pandemic has had a variety of impacts on our food system. Shortages of some products created a new appreciation for and concern about supply chains that many of us take for granted. foodcoreLGL is a regional network working to bring to life to the LGL Food Charter drafted by our communities in 2012. While recognizing the many challenges and hardships the pandemic has created, foodcoreLGL members are hopeful that the boom in interest in the food system and demand for locally sourced food will be a lasting, positive shift in our communities.

Local farmers and producers are adapting to the new realities of physical distancing and an increase in consumer demand by pivoting to online sales. Local options for sourcing food are promoted through Transition Brockville which built a local food directories section on its website and Lanark Local Flavour which significantly updated theirs.

Social media conversations about local food abound. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit (a foodcoreLGL member) reports that collectively, posts from the Health Unit’s Facebook and Twitter page mentioning local food had reached close to 10,000 social media users by early June.

The volume of sales, the numbers of ‘direct from farm’ boxes of produce and products have skyrocketed.  Shannon Miller, from Miller’s Bay Farm says, “In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, people want to do all that they can to ensure that their family’s food supply is stable. For many, that means connecting directly with the producer – someone they can see, speak with, and trust.”

Many are addressing their concerns about the food chain by taking up gardening or expanding their gardens. At the start of the growing season, people’s attention turned to community gardens and thousands across Ontario successfully advocated to the government to reopen community gardens with certain restrictions.

Hopefully this move to closer relationships with our food will bring with it renewed attention to food system challenges and actions to address the negative effects of climate change, the decrease in smaller farms and processing facilities, the issue of food waste management and the need to maintain safe and fair working conditions for all food system workers.

foodcoreLGL’s Food Inventory contains a wealth of links to information about how to source and grow your own food. Check out foodcoreLGL’s  series of toolkits for ideas about advancing the goals of the Food Charter in your municipality, schools, and home.

Ramsey Hart
Executive Director, The Table Community Food Centre