York Region Food Network

At a glance

Issues around a sustainable and healthy food system are central to the work of the York Region Food Network (YRFN).  YRFN approached the KMb Unit in the spring of 2012 with a request for student support to research food charter policy development in other jurisdictions.  YRFN, in partnership with community and regional agencies in York Region, wanted to lead the development of a Food Charter to establish a vision of food and agriculture in York Region to then support the development of an enabling policy framework.  This regional policy framework was seen as central to move forward food system objectives within York Region.

The rest of the story

The research support provided by Prof. Rod MacRae from York University’s Faulty of Environmental Studies, along with a United Way York Region Strength Investment, operational leadership and a committed Food Charter Working Group developed and delivered a Food Charter for York Region in Spring 2013.

The charter is a guiding document for the development of coordinated food-related policies and services in York Region.  Since its inception in 2012, it has formally been adopted by eight Committees and Councils throughout York Region. Other highlights around the impact of this work are as follows:

  • Leveraged over $375,000 in programs, research and policy development funds
  • Helped support 12 community food projects
  • Enabled over 50 community partnerships for the purposes of advancing food policy


Development of the Food Charter has been seminal work for YRFN.  In 2013, building on the success and priority identification of the Food Charter, YRFN was successful in securing an Ontario Centres of Excellence grant supporting research and development around a vibrant Aquaponics lab in Newmarket.  This social venture enabled YRFN to explore new community engagement opportunities through a pilot urban agriculture demonstration hub.

“Since 2011, we have been working to push forward a food systems approach at the regional and municipal levels, while also assisting the community to support food programs that make it easier for people to grow, prepare, eat and share food in their communities” – YRFN

Fast forward

For YRFN, development of the Food Charter has enabled the organization to assert itself into broader conversations of stronger, healthier and more prosperous communities across York Region.  Their most recent 5th annual Food for Change event engaged Dr. Rod MacRae from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.  His messages, drawn from his research about food policy development at a systems level reinforced the messages and values of YRFN.

While four regional municipalities have formally adopted the Food Charter, this ongoing connection with leading research can help YRFN as it advances its work throughout the Region and beyond.