How we got started
In the summer of 2000, a small group met to discuss ways to to promote a more food secure Waterloo Region. This group included representatives from Public Health, the network of community gardens, the local organic sector and emergency food programs. While diverse in background, all were in agreement about the need to ensure that our community had access to nutritious, local food while balancing the needs of local food producers.
Region of Waterloo Public Health and the Foodbank of Waterloo Region then initiated a broad consultation process with local food system stakeholders including non-profits with food programs, government and the academic community as well as farms, and the agriculture and food industry.
It became evident that there was a need to coordinate action along food systems themes. Upon review of the findings, the group agreed to form a steering committee and Foodlink became a reality, incorporating officially as a non-profit in March of 2002. Included in Foodlink's original mandate was support for community gardens, guidance for community-based food systems research and support for projects that might connect rural and urban around food.
Region of Waterloo Council approved a one-time start up grant to hire a coordinator and establish various program streams. With extremely limited resources, the early Foodlink board focused on building the rural-urban connection due to the overwhelming success of its first Buy Local! Buy Fresh! map in the spring of 2002. Thanks to the investment and encouragement of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, by 2004 Foodlink had refined its mission and mandate to tackle "food localism" and left food security and community gardens to others better suited to this type of work. Key in all of this was refining the Buy Local! Buy Fresh! program and sharing it with other communities across the province. Foodlink is considered one of the pioneers of the "local food renaissance" that has swept Ontario.
Today, Foodlink is a grassroots organization that responds to the needs and concerns of consumers as well as farms and the local food industry. We are fully committed to putting more local food on more local plates. Our award-winning projects build sustainable business relationships that make locally grown food more viable to produce and easier to obtain. We are at the forefront in building a social movement that prioritizes and appreciates local food and providing consumers with the necessary information to make healthier, local food choices.
While we have grown beyond the roles first envisioned for us back in the summer of 2000, our work is still committed to linking rural and urban towards the achievement of a healthly local food system.