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Shining a Light on Municipal Food Environment Policy Work

Shining a Light on Municipal Food Environment Policy Work
Kimiya Karbasy, a Master’s student, and Dr. Lana Vanderlee, a postdoctoral fellow, under Dr. Mary L’AbbĂ© at the University of Toronto are developing a tool to help local governments looking to introduce local food policies in their municipality, city or town to make the healthy choice the easier choice for their residents. 

We need your help! Do you know about local policies geared towards improving the food environment? Tell us about your local or municipal food environment policy in your municipality, city or town!
 
Every day in the news, we see cities and towns in North America coming up with unique ideas to shift the food environment towards becoming healthier. Local policies are important—many policy decisions often start small in one or two locations and gain momentum, resulting in larger policy shifts at higher levels.
 
A great example of this is New York City’s 2008 menu labelling legislation, under which restaurant chains are required to label calorie information on menus and menu boards, helping raise consumer awareness of calorie content of restaurant meals. This novel policy was soon introduced across a number of other U.S. cities and states, and is now slated to be implemented at a national level.
 
Earlier this year, Ontario also introduced the Healthy Menu Choices Act, 2015 in chain restaurants and food service providers with 20 locations or more. The new legislation came about after extensive research by Toronto Public Health in conjunction with the University of Toronto, again showing local leadership for policy change.
 
Other great local polices, such as community gardens, healthy hockey arenas, and innovative campaigns to reduce sugary drink consumption are being implemented by towns and cities across North America.
 
Realizing the importance of local and municipal food policies, we feel it is vital to identify locally-derived action focused on healthy eating.
 
Thus, the Local Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) tool proposed by our research group will identify a municipality’s policies relating to the food environment across seven policy areas (food composition, food labelling and information, promotion and marketing, food prices, food provision, food retail, and support for communities), as well as supports for policy implementation (e.g., political leadership, funding and resources for policy, etc.).
 
The Local Food-EPI tool is meant to act as in inventory of novel local food environment policies currently in place in cities, towns, and counties across Canada and U.S. We are working to gather these examples of local food policies to offer municipal governments a set of innovative, realistic policy options to consider for improving their local food environment, and we need your help!
 
If you know of any municipal or local policies targeted towards improving the local food environment, we would like to hear from you. These might be policies that you have heard of in the news, in your Twitter feed, or that are being implemented in your own backyard. You can tweet to us @foodepi_canada with the hashtag #localfoodpoli or fill out this form here and let us know about your policy!
 
 For more information regarding the Local Food-EPI, email Kimiya or Lana: foodepi.canada@utoronto.ca

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