When you go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant, you expect your food to be held to a high safety standard. Community food programs are strongly committed to ensuring that the food they distribute meets these same standards, to ensure clients can access safe, nutritious food with dignity and respect.
Daily Bread Food Bank recently had the opportunity to meet with Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction to discuss the government’s Better for People, Smarter for Business initiative that aims to reduce the regulatory burden for community food programs.
It is crucial that any proposed changes to food regulations have strong protections in place for people who struggle with food insecurity, as these individuals are the most likely to suffer adversely from foodborne illness. Daily Bread provides certified safe food handler training to our member agencies and we have developed a close and productive working relationship with Toronto Public Health to ensure our own services, and those of our member agencies, protect the health and safety of our clients.
The biggest struggle faced by community food programs is not the existing food regulations, but the ever-growing need in our communities. In the past year, we saw a 4% increase in food bank visits in the Toronto region alone.
To support community food programs in achieving their mission, we recommended that the government consider:
1. Making Food Handler Certification more accessible and affordable to community food programs across Ontario.
2. Updating the Food Handler Certification and providing training to public health inspectors to reflect the difference between best before dates and expiry dates. Toronto Public Health has clear, strong, evidence-based standards on best before dates that should be adopted across the province to ensure consistency in public health inspections.
3. Addressing the growing demand for services offered by community food programs by adopting strategies to reduce poverty in Ontario and implementing measures to reduce red tape in social assistance administration and affordable housing.
We were pleased to see the commitment made by Minister Sarkaria and his staff to working closely with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to ensure that any changes to food regulations are accompanied by consultation with community food programs. We will be presenting the Minister with more detailed recommendations for how to tackle red tape to enhance social assistance outcomes and access to affordable housing in the following weeks.
To read our full submission to the consultation, please click here.