Project SOIL explores the potential of on-site food production at public health care and educational institutions. In Ontario, several institutions (e.g., Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital in Thunder Bay, Eastdale Collegiate Institute in Toronto) are already producing food on their properties as a way to generate revenue; supply nutritious fresh food for consumption (by staff, patients, students, etc.); provide therapeutic benefits; and build social enterprises.
Based on existing literature, on-site food production can provide a range of benefits to institutions and their clients.
Those benefits include:
- access to fresh foods
- revenue generation
- savings to grounds maintenance budget
- community outreach
- therapeutic benefits
- aesthetic benefits
Arrangements with local producers, for example ‘renting’ land in exchange for fresh produce, can also contribute to community development, particularly where access to farmland is limited and/or expensive. Our project builds on emerging production models that can flexibly adapt to institutional resources (including SPIn or Small Plot Intensive farming), as well as land tenure models that could contribute to community food production, health and well-being. If you are interested in learning more, please see our short literature overview.
We are surveying public institutions in Ontario to identify the degree to which Ontario institutions are interested in exploring such arrangements, how feasible those arrangements are, and what obstacles are currently in the way of seriously considering such initiatives. In the coming months, we will also be initiating three innovative and groundbreaking food production pilot projects. These pilots will test the therapeutic benefits at gardens on the properties of two health facilities: Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital (which focuses on post acute stroke rehabilitation) and Homewood Health Centre, a leading addiction and mental health treatment facility. The third pilot will take place at the Food School Farm, Centre Wellington District High School’s radical participatory agroecological education program.
In this phase of this three-year project we are conducting a survey of public institutions (hospitals, schools, long-term care facilities, etc.) in Ontario to identify availability of institutional land and the level of institutional interest in on-site food production. Your participation will entail answering 8 online survey questions, along with 5 demographic questions and one question about future participation. This should take between 5 and 20 minutes of your time, depending on the level of detail you wish to provide. At the end of the survey you will be asked if you are also interested in participating in follow up interviews. Such additional involvement will be at your discretion.