A new tax program which will help put locally grown food on the plates of those who need it, is good news for Ontario farmers and food banks, says advocate Chris Hatch.
It will give farmers a tax credit valued at 25 per cent of the market value of the products they donate to community food programs, food banks and student nutrition programs.
Hatch said his group, the Ontario Association of Food Banks, has campaigned for years for such a program, first with former premier Dalton McGuinty and recently with Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“For years, Ontario farmers have been donating out of generosity but this is really needed,” Hatch said. “It’s been a long road, but we are glad we’re here.”
Minister of Agriculture Jeff Leal announced the province-wide program at Hamilton Food Share Monday, saying “When we support the people who grow our food, we support our community and our province.”
The Donation Tax Credit for Farmers will be a boost to Hamilton Food Share, which has been strongly focused on getting more fresh food to Hamilton families in need for the past two years, said its executive director, Joanne Santucci.
“We really need a strong and local system of food supply,” said Santucci. “That’s what today is all about.”
Hamilton Food Share distributes more than two million pounds of food to local food banks each year, with more than half of that coming from the food industry.
Some of the agencies it works with (more than 20 in total) include Good Shepherd Centres, the Salvation Army, Neighbour 2 Neighbour Centre and Stoney Creek Community Food Bank.
While Leal said it’s too early to know the exact value of the tax credits involved, in Hamilton alone, farmers could be eligible for help collectively worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Leal expressed appreciation for his Liberal colleagues’ support for the program at a time when most Ontario ministries are focused on cutting costs. In the end, helping out farmers who are already generous to food programs was the right thing to do, he said.
“Forever, they’ve been very generous. We think it’s time to recognize these efforts, that have been going on for decades.”