Sudbury group challenging food regulations prohibiting homegrown produce donations to food bank
SUDBURY -- Right now, home gardens are brimming with produce and many gardeners would like to share their bounty with people dealing with food insecurities.
The Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council has launched a campaign urging public health to review its interpretation of a food regulation prohibiting donations from home and community gardens to food banks.
"I feel it's important for people in our community to have access to fresh healthy, nutrient dense food coming from our gardens," said Erica Lagios, coordinator of the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council.
Lagios said emergency food providers in other Ontario cities are able to accept produce donations from home and community gardens, so it can be done.
"I did a little bit of research and connected with other emergency food organizations in the North and discovered that Harvest Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie can accept donations from home gardens," she said. "I connected with the Algoma Public Health Unit as well to learn a little bit more and I wanted to connect with our health unit to see if we could make this happen."
Public Health Sudbury and Districts said it supports efforts to help people living with food insecurities, but foodbanks fall under food premise regulations.
"Essentially, Section 29 of the Ontario Food Premises regulation requires that food premise owners and operators obtain their food from a source that is subject to federal or provincial inspection," said Ashley Derocchis, an environmental support officer with Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
But the health unit said it's consulting with a lawyer about the regulation.
"We haven't yet received any interpretation, so we are still waiting on that and unfortunately I don't have a timeline to provide," said Derocchis.
The Sudbury Food Bank says it's working with Public Health and hopes a resolution will be reached to allow fresh food from home gardens to be donated.
"We are suggesting that the foodbank, because we give it away for free and it goes to people that can certainly use the nutrition, that we should be able to get an exemption from that," said Dan Xilon, executive director of the Sudbury Food Bank.
Lagios and Xilon said they are both hoping for an answer soon as prime harvest season is just around the corner.