What is a Food Charter?

A food charter is a vision statement that defines what a community wants their local or regional food system to look like. (In general, a food system is a broad term that includes all aspects of providing food to people – from field to table. The Food System includes growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, distributing, marketing, selling, preparing, consuming and disposing of food and food packaging).

A food charter builds on collective values of a community that promote and support a local food system.  It can become a reference document that municipal decision makers use to design and direct policies that improve the well-being of our community

Food charters offer decision-makers, community groups or individuals an overall guide for shaping food-related policy and projects. Creating a food charter is a collaborative effort involving many stakeholders, often acting as a positive first step to encourage a community conversation about food system issues. It builds on collective values of a community that promote and support a food system that is both healthy and sustainable.

Charters are being crafted in cities, towns and regions across Canada, (including Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Toronto, Sarnia, Guelph etc) and many are being adopted or endorsed by municipal governments.

Background on the Parry Sound & Area Food Charter

In December 2013, a consultant was hired to prepare a discussion paper on food charters. The paper outlines what food charters are, how they are developed, the benefits and outcomes they can lead to, and experiences of other municipalities and jurisdictions. This report was used as a guide to initiate the food charter development process.

There has been interest in the community surrounding a Food charter for years.  In November 2014, a diverse group of community stakeholders gathered to discuss their priorities for a food charter. Participants were guided by Lauren Baker, the founding director of Sustain Ontario- the Alliance for Healthy Food and Farming. Lauren is a policy specialist with the Toronto Food Policy Council, and a member of Toronto Public Health’s Food Strategy Team.

From December 2014 until March 2015, several meetings were held to to draft and revise the food charter, with a smaller group. As of April 2015, the Parry Sound & Area Food Charter was finalized (although it is a living document and will continue to evolve and change over time).

Click here to sign the Parry Sound & Area Food Charter!

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