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Food and Nutrition

Sustainable Food Systems

Everyone should have access to nutritious, safe, affordable and culturally appropriate food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences. The food system should operate in a way that protects our food system for future generations.

Having a sustainable food system means making sure everyone now and, in the future, has enough healthy food. Sustainable food systems are economically successful, they benefit society as a whole (not just corporations) and help to protect the environment by conserving resources and reducing pollution so future generations also have food security. 

A sustainable food system is good for our health in many ways. It makes sure we always have access to safe and healthy food, which keeps us physically and mentally well. It promotes healthy, stable environments and helps to address climate change so we can live well and continue to have access to nutritious foods. Sustainable food systems also encourage us to connect with nature and our communities, which boosts our overall well-being.

From ‘grow it’ to ‘throw it’ and everything in between, our food system includes:

  • Production- the process of growing and harvesting vegetables, fruit, and other produce, as well as raising animals and insects for food production or pollination. 
  • Processing- refers to how we turn fresh produce, meat, fish and other foods into a form that's ready for sale. 
  • Distribution- the process of transporting and delivering food to food access points. 
  • Access- the activities and systems that affect people's ability to get and consume healthy food. 
  • Consumption- how we prepare food to eat for non-commercial purposes.
  • Waste management- includes processes for recovery and minimizing food waste by composting, and recycling of food waste or surplus.

It’s important to recognize the food system as a part of overall food literacy and our ability to access the nutritious foods we need. The foods we eat can have a large impact on the environment and climate change. And in turn, the environment and climate change, have an impact on our food system as well as other factors that influence health and wellbeing. For more information on how climate change and health are linked visit Climahealth.

The food system impacts our broader societal, economic and environmental wellbeing.  Access and availability to food is affected by our local and global food systems, and by the built environment and climate change. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit works with a wide range of partners to promote a sustainable food system and to address climate change by reducing its negative impacts on health and wellbeing, including on food security. 

For more information:
Call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Food access and availability can be affected by the built environment in our community. The built environment includes the human-made design and layout of the communities in which people live, learn, work and play. It can impact our access to nutritious food, access to physical activity, and connecting with others. 

The built environment is shaped by Provincial, and Municipal plans and policies, which guide how land resources are managed. Check out healthy community design to learn more about building healthy, complete communities.

Making sure the food system is sustainable in our local community has several benefits for all of us who live in Simcoe and Muskoka. Some examples include:

Environmental Benefits

  • Reduced carbon footprint: Less transportation can mean lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Biodiversity preservation: Small-scale farming can protect ecosystems and genetic diversity.
  • Resource conservation: Sustainable methods use fewer chemicals and less water, preserving natural resources.

Economic Benefits

  • Support for the local economy: Buying local can support farmers and businesses.
  • Job creation: Agriculture, processing, distribution, and more parts of the food system offer local employment.
  • Economic resilience: Diversifying food sources shields communities from economic shocks.

Health Benefits

  • Access to fresh, seasonal food: Locally grown produce is harvested at peak ripeness.
  • Reduced exposure to chemicals: Many sustainable practices can minimize pesticides and herbicides.

Social Benefits

  • Community building: Connect with producers and neighbours, fostering trust and community spirit.
  • Food security: Depend less on distant sources, strengthening local food networks.
  • Education and awareness: Learn about sustainable food systems/practices.

Cultural Benefits

  • Culinary traditions: Celebrate regional cuisine, preserving cultural heritage.
  • Connection to land and food: Support local producers and strengthen community ties.

Community food security is when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy lifestyle.

At a community level, food security is achieved through a local sustainable food system that allows for community self-reliance, social justice, and equal access for everyone.

Food access and availability in Simcoe Muskoka is affected by climate change. Climate hazards, such as rising temperatures and extreme weather, affect all aspects of the food system (from production to getting and preparing our foods). This can lead to shortages of food, and higher prices and make it harder for some communities to get the food they need. These impacts can negatively influence food security and safety, which have important consequences for health and wellbeing.

At the same time, the food system influences climate change. Greenhouse gases associated with the food system contribute to climate change. Climate change is already affecting the wellbeing of individuals in Simcoe Muskoka, particularly those who face existing health inequities.

Luckily, local and sustainable food systems can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change (climate mitigation). They also increase our resilience and capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change (climate adaptation). Efforts are being taken at all levels to support sustainable food systems. Individuals can have a positive impact, too! Visit our food and the environment webpage for more information on how we can choose foods that promote human health, healthy environments, and sustainable food systems.

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If you have any questions or concerns that require a response, please contact Health Connection directly.

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