Deadline extended to
5 pm Monday July 22/24

Food Insecurity is a Community Crisis

Our community is facing a food insecurity crisis. Oak Tree 9 will help educate, support, and raise awareness about the amazing work Guelph/Wellington charities do to help people in our community access the nutritious food they need to thrive. Guided by a panel of expert community judges who understand the social, economic and logistical challenges involved, we are inviting local charities to submit applications for our $20,000 grand prize. The money can be used to expand or create programming that will get healthy and nutritious food to those who need it.

Food security is a simple concept that requires a lot of complex coordination. At its core, food security is having consistent, reliable access to safe and nutritious food that brings nourishment and joy. Food security needs a lot of systems (production, storage, distribution and retail) to work closely together. It also requires everyone to have the financial means they need to buy food that is meaningful to them.

In addition to being a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, and a basic human right, food security is a social, economic and environmental driver for our community. Like the other social determinants of health that The Oak Tree Project has explored, food security is an opportunity to build a more equitable, vibrant and resilient community.

While it’s easy to overlook the importance of food security when it is not a personal challenge, it is a real barrier for many families to reach their full potential. According to recent data, as many as 1 in 4 children in Ontario lives in a food insecure household, and 18% of households in Guelph-Wellington identify as food insecure. Most of us likely know someone who worries about where their next meal will come from.

These are the food system specialists who will be guiding our judging process. We are grateful to these smart and insightful community leaders for the time and wisdom they are sharing with us.

United Way

Glenna Banda is passionate about building communities where everyone can thrive. She has over 15 years of leadership experience on food security initiatives including the Children’s Foundation’s Food & Friends student nutrition programs, AgScape’s provincial food and agriculture education programs and in her current role, United Way’s From Poverty to Possibility collective impact project.

Circular Economy Department, City of Toronto

From 2019 – 2024, Ashlee Cooper worked on Guelph-Wellington’s circular economy initiative, Our Food Future. As the Manager, Food Equity and Community Resilience, she oversaw data collection and reporting as well as an array of circular food economy programs aimed at increasing food access and making circular economy theory and practice palatable to the general public.   She worked closely with community food advocates to start the Food System Resiliency Table, a regional food policy council and also guided the development of the Charter for Food Justice.  Ashlee currently works for the City of Toronto developing circular economy policy and practices.

Arrell Food Institute

Pauline is the Community Food Lead at the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. Her role aims to connect and support food access work throughout the region by utilizing her knowledge of how these systems work to address food security. Much of this insight comes from her near decade of experience in food banking. 

Sarah has deep roots in the Onward Willow neighbourhood through social events, accessing services, volunteering, and activities for her kids. She has been an integral part of Shelldale Farm Park and Food from home, Food for home – another community gardening program in the area. She got involved with f.u.n. to immerse herself even further into community support work. Sarah has worked on developing and implementing our community cafes, f.u.n. Fridays (a weekly social lunch drop-in), and gardening program. She also does a lot of background work like admin, outreach, program registration, and language support. Sarah especially loves our social events, because she likes getting to know people helping them, not with just food access, but also the other community services and supports we are connected to.

Faiqa heard about the f.u.n. through Shelldale Farm Park – the Community Garden at Shelldale led by The SEED – where she’s been an active member for many years. She loves community and learning about different cultural foods, so it was only natural she was drawn to the work we were planning to do. Faiqa worked on developing our own gardening programs, cooking workshops, and social media page. She has a keen interest in nutrition for kids, and enjoys working with young people on building their capacity and confidence to create meals that are enjoyable, balanced, and that they can easily prepare. She decided it would be great to share her knowledge with others, so now writes the “fun food for kids” section on the f.u.n. Facebook page. 

Lisa is a Registered Dietitian and a Public Health Nutritionist who holds a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Master of Science from the University of Guelph. Lisa has worked for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health for 20 years. Lisa embraces any opportunities to work on community initiatives aimed at addressing food insecurity and improving the food environment so that everyone can access, prepare, and enjoy healthy foods.

As Director of Transformation of the Guelph Wellington Ontario Health Team, Emmi supports health and social care partners in Guelph Wellington to advance integrated care to improve patient and population health outcomes. Specifically, Emmi contributes to health care strategic and system planning at the community, regional and provincial levels.

Chris has a passion for connecting people and charities. The work he does creates funding for charities throughout Guelph to build community vitality. He does this through authentic relationship building and is a custom philanthropic advisor. He is a dedicated and passionate leader that fosters success and inspires confidence with stakeholders.