What we do
Foodlink Waterloo Region is a unique and multi-faceted organization that offers services to a variety of community stakeholders including consumers, farms and the food industry in general. Our programs are designed to promote local food and build a broader awareness of its importance to build a healthy community.
As the organization invested with the mandate to build a healthy, local food system for Waterloo Region, we have several roles to play including marketing, business development, social education, outreach and lobbying.
Marketing Programs and Services
In our marketing capacity, we work primarily with businesses (rural and urban) to promote locally grown products and make them more visible for the growing number of consumers for whom "local" is an important feature. The demand for local food is growing at an amazing rate and farms and the broader food industry can benefit by aligning themselves with this movement.
Key marketing services include the Buy Local! Buy Fresh! map and the associated Buy Local! Buy Fresh! Brand. We also profile local farms and businesses in our Local Harvest Newsletter and offer customized consulting services for our network. Foodlink also facilitates an annual marketing workshop for Buy Local! Buy Fresh! farms and businesses which covers issues, trends and opportunities to tap into the growing demand for local food.
Business Development Services
Foodlink works to develop the capacity of our farming community and to also create sustainable partnerships connecting all links in the food chain. We provide opportunities for the food industry to connect with local food. We provide market information regarding local products, broker new sales for local farms and processors, and assist in developing value added products or features.
Key business development activites include customized consulting services for our farm and business partners and the Taste Local! Taste Fresh! program that links farms and processors to local restaurants and caterers. We also maintain a database of wholesale producers and make product referals for larger food purchasers.
Social Education and Outreach Strategies
Foodlink is a recognized leader in the local food movement (both locally and Provincially) and is frequently sought out as a community resource. Each year, we have the opportunity to share our message with thousands of individuals throughout Waterloo Region via public events and the media. Foodlink particapates in health fairs, trade shows, conferences, workshops that provide opportunities to promote local food and farms and their role in a healthy community. We also respond to requests for speaking engagements on our work and the local food movement. These are tailored to schools, service clubs, church congregations, businesses, farm organizations, and other groups interested in learning more and getting involved with us.
Specific education events and activities include the Taste of Woolwich and Taste of Wellesley community food events and our Local Harvest Newsletter which circulates to thousands of households each issue. Our new website is also a comprehensive resource for local food including food facts, food terminology, local food programs across Ontario and other links of interest.
Lobbying and Engagement
Although local food is enjoying much popularity, there are still many challenges facing local farms, food processors, markets and others aligned with the business of local food. Foodlink has responded to requests by affiliated farms and partners to lobby various government departments for changes in rules and regulations that present barriers to the production and sale of local food products. These lobbying efforts are done at the Municipal, Regional and Provincial level.
In collaboration with local stakeholders including the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture, Foodlink forms delegations to Township and Regional Councils, participates on advisory committees and provides feedback on various agricultural and food related policies. Foodlink also represents individual farms and businesses helping connect and guide them through various planning, zoning, food safety or other issues that affect their business.