The need for contextual, place-based food policies: Lessons from Northwestern Ontario

  • Connie Nelson Lakehead University
  • Charles Z. Levkoe Lakehead University
  • Rachel Kakegamic Lakehead University
Keywords: complexity, food systems, northwestern Ontario, place, policy


In recent years, several reports have highlighted the need for a national food policy that takes a comprehensive approach to addressing food systems (CAC, 2014; Levkoe & Sheedy, 2017; Martorell, 2017; UNGA, 2012). These findings suggest that, at the core, resilient food systems must be built on interconnected knowledge and experience that emerge from place-based interrelationships between human and ecological systems. Drawing on these important learnings, this commentary voices our hopes and concerns around the recent efforts of the Canadian Government to develop a food policy for Canada. While we commend the Government’s desire to “set a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while identifying actions we can take in the short-term”, we caution any tendency to develop “best practices” that assume a universal, or “one-size fits all” approach to food policy development. We argue that Canada requires a set of contextual, place-based food policies that emerge from the grassroots, address local needs and desires, and build on the strengths and assets of communities.