Food affects us all. It affects our health, our local and global economies and our ecological footprint. It is an important part of the fabric of our social and cultural wellbeing. We believe that food is a door into a number complex social and environmental issues.
Despite increasing interest in Canada in healthy eating, sustainable procurementpurchasing food in ways that helps ensure secure jobs and livelihoods, maintain health and diversity of both plants and animals, and protect natural resources including water, soil, and the climate and building local food economiesLocal food economies: food is grown, fished, raised and processed within a limited geographic area and distributed over shorter distances from consumers’ homes than is common in the global industrial food system., there remains much work to be done. Some populations still face unacceptably high rates of food insecurityFood insecurity: the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.. Diet-related chronic diseases are on the rise, and serious environmental threats abound, including food-related climate change and soil and water pollution. The planet is also suffering an alarming loss of agrobiodiversity.
It is only by engaging everyone who has a stake in the food system—from farmers to policymakers—that we can create a future of food that is good for people and the planet.
The Foundation’s Sustainable Food Systems initiative aims at affecting systemic change by building food systems that create vibrant local economies, ensure environmental sustainability and contribute to health and wellbeing for all people.
We look for and act on opportunities to make changes in the food system through investing, granting and convening on a strategy for three specific program areas: institutional food (particularly in health care facilities), regional food economies and community food security.
Sustainable regional value chains are the series of relationships between producers, processors, distributors, food service providers, retailers, and other actors needed to get healthy, sustainably produced food to regional markets on a large scale.
Our work is focussed in three areas:
- Regional Food System Assessments: We assess local food chains, both existing and potential, with the aim of providing a solid foundation for the future development of projects in each region. (Now closed to applications). View sample assessments here.
- Business planning: We assist organizations in developing and communicating their financial plans
to potential partners and funders. (Now closed to applications).
- Implementation: We select and support projects with viable business plans. A learning network to share best business practices was created by Food Secure Canada (now inactive). Plan evaluation is provided using the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. Read the Evidence of Change report and see the Regional Value Chain grantees.
By providing healthy food and influencing supply chains to shift toward more local and sustainable production, institutions can play a transformative role in creating socially, economically and environmentally viable food systems.
Hospitals, long-term care facilities, universities and schools have the power to drive food system change in two ways. Firstly, they are publicly funded, so citizens have a voice in how they are run. Secondly, institutional stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, patients, and doctors) hold influence and can steer the purchasing policies and practices of their institutions toward greater sustainability.
To create a critical mass of organizations willing to adopt sustainable food procurement practices, we first need specific support, incentives and learning opportunities. The Institutional Food Program supports this work and fosters idea sharing among decision makers by widely disseminating stories and successful methods.
We have teamed up with non-profit organizations to support work on school and university campuses. Our current work is focused on the health care sector (see the Nourish section below).
We are building a national community of innovators in healthcare who have agency over the culture and practice of food in their organizations and communities. By implementing improved menus, more sustainable purchasing policies, and projects that increase patient and resident well-being, these influencers are creating actionable solutions to pressing food-related issues.
We also carry out strategic communications to reinforce the connection between food systems and health, and convene across sectors to incite public and private policy change toward building more sustainable food value chains.
Nourish formed a national cohort of 25 institutional innovators, each selected for their vision to elevate the role of food in patient care and community wellbeing. Supported by facilitators, mentors, and partners, the cohort will work collaboratively on the challenges and opportunities ahead. Ultimately, their unifying goal is to leverage health care institutions to be anchors of health, within and beyond their walls.
We have supported work in community food security by providing major grants to Community Food Centres Canada and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.
In addition, we created the Banking on Change Fund to increase food security at the community level by supporting a shift in approach by local food banks. The fund is helping food banks move the focus of their strategy away from emergency food aid and toward providing healthy and sustainable food, in addition to supporting civic engagement on hunger and poverty issues. To date, we have provided grants to twelve local organizations across the country.
Our community food security work is now focused on northern and indigenous communities. We’re currently participating in the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative, an innovative partnership between northern communities, northern advisors, funders and organizations. Together, they are working to foster healthier and stronger communities in Northern Manitoba through improved access to healthy food and the development of resilient local economies.
How We Support Change
Recent Grants & Investments
Northern Manitoba Food, Culture & Community CollaborativeThe Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative (NMFCCC) will use the funds to further develop projects and share approaches, including social enterprise, that focus on improving food security and building resilient local food economies in Northern Manitoba.
Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS)Develop financial tools and markets for farmers and ranchers to undertake conservation practices on their lands, protecting wetlands and rivers while conserving biodiversity and sequestering carbon.
Meal ExchangeTo support Meal Exchange and Sierra Youth Coalition's coordination of student efforts on ten university campuses with the aim of changing university food procurement policies to support local, sustainable food systems.
Impact & Lessons Learned
PURCHASING POWER: 10 Lessons on Getting More Local, Sustainable and Delicious Food in Schools, Hospitals and Campuses
This report presents ten lessons learned about changing institutional food (purchasing and food services) and identifies barriers as well as levers for change in the larger systems of which these institutions are a part. We hope the report will inform and inspire institutions, organizations, funders and policy makers to leverage local, sustainable food purchasing by institutions and bring about significant social, economic, health and environmental impacts.Learn More
Nourish Newsletter: Healthcare Food Purchasing - Going Beyond Local to Talk About SustainabilityLearn More
Evidence of Change: The sustainable livelihoods framework
A new guide to help with the assessment of changes in the physical, natural, financial and human dimensions of a project, using the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. Based on a theory often used in international development projects, it was developed by Ricardo Ramirez with input from several partners. It was tested by two projects in Saskatoon and Nova Scotia, and while it was developed to support projects funded under the Regional Value Chain program, we hope that it proves useful to a wider audience.Learn More
SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS: A LANDSCAPE ASSESSMENT FOR CANADIAN PHILANTHROPY
This report explores the current Canadian food system and highlights key opportunities for funders to support work to drive significant and systemic impact in this field. There are three sections: an overview of the Canadian food system based on the perspective of select stakeholders, an assessment of the current national funding landscape through analysis of survey data, and detailed profiles of participating Canadian funding organizations.Learn More