March 27, 2012

ECV Ontario Opportunities: Good Food Boxes

When we talk about food and food systems, one important issue that often arises is the conflict between trying to provide healthy and sustainable food at an affordable price and ensuring a fair income for the farmers that grow our food. This conflict is equally important in the Ontario ethno-cultural vegetable market. While many Ontario farmers express interest in growing these vegetables they need to ensure that this venture will be financially sustainable for them. This is important because while there is a great deal of consumption of these vegetables not everyone can afford to pay a premium for Ontario ECV.
Good Food Boxes are one strategy which has attempted to deal with this conflict in the wider vegetable market. These not-for-profit programs that exist in many Ontario towns (including Guelph, Toronto, Ottawa), create an enabling environment for the consumption of vegetables. They provide weekly or bi-weekly boxes of fresh (and local when possible) vegetables for families and individuals at a reasonable cost. These initiatives work to increase access to fresh food, support local farmers, and reduce food insecurity. In the interest of reducing food insecurity, many of these programs target new Canadians and low income Canadians.
As a consumer of Good Food Boxes, I know that many of these programs like to include at least one different or feature vegetable in each box. The goal of this often seems to be to encourage consumers to try new things and learn new recipes. These programs, therefore, certainly have potential to be an important market for Ontario grown ethno-cultural vegetables. In Toronto, for example, last year Food Share distributed some of the vegetables grown by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in their Good Food Boxes (Food Share, 2012). In past ECV Ontario research, we have discovered that some farmers face difficulties in finding reliable markets for their ECV produce. It seems that this may be an important opportunity for growers of ECV to explore (if they aren’t already!).
Food Share (2012). Exotic vegetables coming soon from a farmer near you. Retrieved from .

Frances Dietrich-O’Connor, MSc Candidate
SEDRD, University of Guelph
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