Tag Archives: Waterloo

Unmaintained Pedestrian Walkways Need City Clearing.

Yesterday my husband decided to take the dog for a walk while I was at Sobey’s. Our dog Amber loves the city plowed trail behind our house. To get to it, my husband and the dog decided to go down the walk through. My husband fell on the ice of the unmaintained route. He scraped the side of his head and strained his arm. He was lucky he didn’t break a bone.

Discussions on social media from active transportation activists have talked about having the Cities of Waterloo Region plow all the sidewalks, as is done in Elmira. Waterloo decided to up bylaw enforcement instead. As you can see from the above pictures, the residents in my neighbourhood are very good at keeping our sidewalks clear. The only place on the sidewalk that is solid ice is in front of the pedestrian walkway. A sign says “No Winter Maintenance”. This seems to include the patch of public sidewalk in front of the walkthrough. I talked my neighbour who lives beside this patch of ice. He says that part of the sidewalk doesn’t belong to him. It doesn’t belong to the neighbour on the other side either. It belongs to the CITY OF WATERLOO.

The unmaintained walkthrough is used by children going to school, dog walkers, cyclists, and pedestrians generally, many with strollers. If the City of Waterloo is really for increasing active transportation, if the City of Waterloo is really for clean sidewalks in the winter, as they say they are, they should maintain pedestrian walk ways. I know at one time men from the House of Friendship cleaned the sidewalks in downtown Kitchener. It’s an idea that could work.

Fortunately, my husband will heal and probably won’t need physiotherapy, but I am sure that if we talked to the lawyer who got my older daughter $10,000 dollars after a car ran into her when she was cycling, the City of Waterloo would be liable, despite the “No Winter Maintenance” sign.

How does the city get away with leaving a solid patch of ice on the sidewalk when the rest of us have to clean our walks? How does the city get away having a heavily used pedestrian walkway left as a sheet of ice? This policy must be changed.


2020 Sucked, the People Didn’t

I am sitting here in tears. Tears of gratitude to my neighbours. As you may have guessed from previous posts, my husband is on the cancer journey. Two of our neighbours just came to our sidewalk with their dog dressed up in red lighted ropes and a long silver sweater. They had Happy New Year on a piece of cardboard along with other words of greeting for my husband. They had a socially distanced talk with John and Amber. Thank you so much.

My husband is a big walker of our dog, Amber. I never realized how much he is loved in our neighbourhood. We have had cards and little gifts and everyone always asking me how John is doing. (He is doing well on oral chemo). When it snowed, a neighbour snowblowed our walk. The last snow, a neighbour shovelled our walk and humbly said, “I was just walking by with my shovel and noticed you hadn’t done your walk yet.”

My friends have given me books to read and people have asked me how I am doing as caregiver. (Fine)

I would also like to thank the wonderful people at the Grand River Cancer Centre. Most of our visits with the doctors, symptom management staff, and dietitians have been by phone, which is actually not a bad thing for a tired cancer patient and they are so supportive. Plug here for hopespring.ca who have counselling, support groups, and even wig delivery.

Also, thanks to my two daughters and son-in-law who have also helped with the snow and my eldest daughter drops of Lady Glaze donuts for her Dad.

My 2020 started off with the funeral of one of my best friends, Laurie Strome, an extraordinary community organizer. Then came COVID and I retired from HopeSpring in April. Which was good, as John seemed off and I fought for a CATscan for him.

My grandchildren are taught from home as they have seizures, as does their mother. Their epilepsy is under control but helping teach kids with mild autism at home is not a treat. Thanks to my daughter and the kids’ teachers.

My daughter is also a PSW at a nursing home. If you think your year was bad, be an isolated patient in a nursing home. My daughter’s home is a good one, very safe, but it has been hard for her clients to be alone, she says. My daughter takes her violin and plays the piano for her clients as they had no events at all over Christmas. My daughter got her first COVID shot on Dec. 29. A great ending to 2020.

Happy New Year 2021. Despite it all “Life is Good”

Support Button Factory Arts

There’s a little gem in Uptown Waterloo, Button Factory Arts. It supports artists with exhibitions. You can take classes from fused glass to learning water colour. There are also art lessons for children. There is an art therapist available. In this time, classes are on-line, outside or onsite.

Also in this time of COVID, non-profits have found that their donations are drying up. A lot of charities depend on in-person galas, auctions and performances to raise funds. The Button Factory raises a lot of funds through their courses and exhibitions. From March to the present, these in-person events have not been possible.

I am proud to be a board member of Button Factory Arts. We are raising 10,000 dollars through a GoFundMe to keep the organization going. We are very close to our goal, just over 2,000 short.

Please think of donating to this fine organization. Waterloo needs the arts.


Mandated Mask Wearing: Waterloo Regional Council has Passed Controversial Health Measures Before (And they all got re-elected).

Wearing the mask my daughter got me at the beginning of the pandemic.

When I ran for Regional Council for the first time in 2000, the Region had just passed the no-smoking by-law. Like today, the province refused to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. A man smoking on his front steps, who had probably been forced out there, asked me if I agreed with it. I did. I do not know who voted for the by-law but no-one lost a seat because of it. The whining and anger over that by-law was huge, as many bar patrons also smoked. The Region used by-law officers to enforce. Eventually the province stepped up. Today, you would never know there had been a controversy

The second instance occurred during my early years as a councillor. Regional Council decided to ban cosmetic pesticides. Interestingly, the medical officer of health would not put out an order for this ban. Council went ahead anyway. There was a lot of whining and anger.By-law officers that also regulate lawn watering regulated spraying. Even today, people still grumble about their dandelions. The province, once again, stepped in after the fact.

This brings us to today. We are in the middle of a pandemic and in the first stages of reopening restaurants, stores and bars. From March to almost the end of May, public health wanted everyone in their homes to stop the spread of this new disease so wouldn’t recommend mask wearing. Now that the numbers are down, but still a bit of spread, wearing a mask is recommended. Like the ban on the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, public health will not recommend a by-law mandating the wearing of masks in places where social distancing is difficult or in restaurants, bars and stores.

Health Canada says,”When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.” It is not known by how much wearing a mask will decrease people’s risk.

When we look at who gets COVID-19, it is important to note that only one case was traced to the large BLM march in Kitchener. I know from my daughter who attended, that almost everyone, including herself, wore a mask. They tried to social distance. Working from home, she quarantined herself for two weeks afterwards. On the other hand, a party in London with no social distancing and masks, has caused COVID spread.

I always wear a mask when I visit a store, and most establishments have their staff masked by provincial decree. Yet there are so many customers not masked. Some are going to be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. Why does everyone have to be masked when I visit the hairdresser (Thanks Control ) and the dentist (Thanks Waterloo Smiles) but not when I visit Basics?

Waterloo Regional Council is the Board of Health. They have passed health measures before both with the recommendation of public health staff and without the recommendation of public health staff. Certainly public health measures have been successfully passed locally before the province moved ahead.

We can’t carry on with everyone shut up in their homes. Everyone needs to wear a mask, hand wash or use sanitizer, not touch their face, and practice social distancing. Follow the recommendations of a safe bubble of ten people.

There will be whining and anger, that is no surprise. There has been whining and anger over the introduction of seat belts, smoking bans, and cosmetic pesticides bans. The world moves on.

Thank you Mayor Berry Vrbanovic for introducing this motion.

Tulip Celebration in Uptown Waterloo



What’s Up with the Corduroy Road?

First of all, Mayor Sue Foxton of North Dumfries Township wants you to know that North Dumfries still has a lot of corduroy roads. A million snappy jokes jumped into my head, but I like North Dumfries and Mayor Sue is doing a good job!

The one pictured above is, of course, the corduroy road found under King St. in Uptown Waterloo on March 11 when the asphalt road was dug up to put in utilities and set up the new Ion light rail line. An archeologist had to come and examine it and his findings are going to the provincial heritage ministry for approval before work can begin again on the Ion construction. The road is the original Mennonite road built before 1800 by cutting down the standing trees to make the road. You can see large stumps also that became part of the road.

Uptown Waterloo and indeed much of the surrounding housing on Euclid, Alexandra, up to where I used to live on Beverley St, are on the site of the Beverley Swamp. Even today, many houses in this area have sump pumps due to the high ground water levels.

The logs of the road were put over the swamp so horses and carts and people could traverse the swamp ( or as we say today, wetland). Over time, the road was buried and the ground built up. The basement at the Waterloo Hotel where you can descend to a store or bar (depending on who is renting)  is what remains of the original ground floor of the hotel, as told to me by a local resident.

While everyone is concerned what the delay in studying the road will mean for the stores and businesses on King St., it turns out the road has become quite the tourist attraction.

At the Mayor’s Breakfast this morning, Mike Murrary, CAO, mentioned that the Region is working on letting people take a piece of the road if they wish. Tom Galloway presented this idea to me yesterday.

In a previous update memo, Kim Moser said:

The Region will be offering residents a chance to secure their own piece of the corduroy road after it’s been removed
 100, two-foot sections of the corduroy road will be available to the public for free on a first-come, first-service basis, while supplies last in May
 Details on this giveaway will be provided by the Region once the corduroy road has been removed from the area by GrandLinq
 The remainder of the corduroy road and the surrounding soil will be disposed of according to environmental standards and regulations

Here is some information from staff about the process so far.

From Lucille Bish, Director of Cultural Services concerning preserving the road.

The process to preserve wet wood artifacts from archaeological sites is to keep them wet in the field and then in the lab.  Water is slowly removed and replaced with PEG – polyethylene glycol – a process which can take several years.  This cannot be done easily if the wood has been allowed to dry out in the field or the lab.

In the case of the corduroy road section found under King Street, it has been uncovered and fully documented under the direction of an archaeologist.  However, there was no intent to keep it wet and covered, so the cell structure of the wood will have already begun to collapse.  We don’t know how long the wood will stay intact, but any display or use would be short term at best. Without some form of preservation, now that the wood has been exposed to the elements, it will become dust in a matter of a couple years. The resources to preserve the wood are likely limited to federal conservation labs in Ottawa.

The City of Waterloo Museum is planning to take a section, with the knowledge and support of the Region of Waterloo Museum.  There is no need to keep more than one section of the road in the community.  As the actual preservation of the wood is beyond the physical and financial resources of either museum, it would be a temporary exhibit.

Neither can the road be left intact and re-covered with soil, as there are adjacent underground services which must be replaced.

The real value of the find has already been accomplished.  The formal documentation has included photographs, detailed drawings and construction notes, and 3D imaging.  The City of Waterloo Museum plans a temporary exhibit of images at the construction site.  Many people have been attracted to Uptown Waterloo to take a look, which has been good for business.

Here is even more detail about the corduroy road, for those obsessed (like me).

· On March 11, GrandLinq crews performing light rail transit (LRT) construction at the King/Willis Way intersection, discovered a change in conditions and the presence of wood
o In keeping with requirements of both the Project Agreement and the Ontario Heritage Act, work was immediately stopped and GrandLinq’s Environmental Department was informed
· The investigation, which is nearing completion, has been led by an independent licensed archaeologist, with support from historical experts at both the Region and the City of Waterloo
· On March 18, the lead archaeologist confirmed that the finding was a corduroy road
· Following the confirmation, the lead archaeologist and his team were required to:
o Determine the extent of the corduroy road on King, between William and Erb
o Carefully and completely expose the intact sections of the corduroy road in order to document the findings (i.e. map and photograph the corduroy road)
o Submit a report, for review and approval, to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport (Ministry)

Current Situation:
· Today (April 19), the lead archaeologist and his team are expected to complete their documentation of the corduroy road on King, between William and Erb. They will also prepare the report for the Ministry
· Understanding the concerns a prolonged delay will have on ION LRT construction and businesses in UpTown Waterloo, the lead archaeologist has worked closely with the Ministry throughout the investigation and will remove the corduroy road once the documentation process is complete and authorization from the Ministry has been granted. This work will require two steps:
o Step 1: Removal of unsuitable soil that surrounded the corduroy road. Some of the soil in this area cannot be reused due to poor conditions
o Step 2: The corduroy road (i.e. the logs) will be removed
· Once the unsuitable soil and corduroy road materials have been removed, LRT construction in this area will resume

Next Steps:
· At this point, it’s too early to know what impact the corduroy road delay will have on the ION construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo
· Once LRT construction resumes, GrandLinq and the Region will need some time to assess the situation and determine what (if any) schedule time can be gained through other construction methods (i.e. double-shifting and/or a noise by-law exemption, etc.)
· The Region and GrandLinq understand the importance of the Christmas shopping season for UpTown Waterloo businesses. We expect to have an update on the ION construction schedule and the impacts of the corduroy road delay by the end of June
· It’s important to note that during the archaeological investigation of the corduroy road, GrandLinq crews were re-assigned to accelerate the completion of LRT work in other areas of UpTown Waterloo. This will help with the overall LRT construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo. For example, on Allen, and in the Caroline/Allen intersection:
o The Caroline/Allen intersection did not open, as previously planned, on March 24. Instead, the intersection remains closed until mid-June
o When the intersection re-opens, all required work in the intersection will be complete, including installation of the track and related infrastructure
· On-going work in UpTown also continues, as scheduled, including:
o King/Union – construction at this intersection is progressing well and it is expected to re-open May 15 prior to the Caroline/Erb intersection closing
o King/William – construction at this intersection began March 29 and it is expected to re-open May 15. The Caroline/Erb intersection will not close until King/William re-opens

What will happen to the corduroy road?
· As required by the Ontario Heritage Act, the corduroy road has been carefully and completely exposed and documented. A report on the findings, as required, will be submitted to the Ministry for review and approval
o The final report will be shared with both the Waterloo Region Museum and the City of Waterloo’s Museum
· The City of Waterloo’s Museum has requested, and will receive, a piece of the corduroy road for its archives
· The Region has extensive drone footage of the corduroy road
· The City of Waterloo has documented the corduroy road through 3D-imaging. This information will be shared with the Region
· The Region and the City of Waterloo will be creating several banners to document the history of the corduroy road and what was found in UpTown Waterloo
o These banners, once completed, will be displayed along the construction fencing in UpTown Waterloo
· The Region will be offering residents a chance to secure their own piece of the corduroy road after it’s been removed
o 100, two-foot sections of the corduroy road will be available to the public for free on a first-come, first-service basis, while supplies last in May
o Details on this giveaway will be provided by the Region once the corduroy road has been removed from the area by GrandLinq
· The remainder of the corduroy road and the surrounding soil will be disposed of according to environmental standards and regulations

Will GrandLinq be able to complete their work in time for the 2016 Holiday shopping season?
· At this point, it’s too early to know what impact the corduroy road delay will have on the ION construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo
· Once LRT construction resumes, GrandLinq and the Region will need some time to assess the situation and determine what (if any) schedule time can be gained through other construction methods (i.e. double-shifting and/or a noise by-law exemption, etc.)
· The Region and GrandLinq understand the importance of the Christmas shopping season for UpTown Waterloo businesses. We expect to have an update on the ION construction schedule and the impacts of the corduroy road delay by the end of June

What is a Corduroy road?
· A corduroy road (or log road) is a type of road made by placing logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area
o In some cases, these road sections were sand or earth covered. The result is an improvement over impassable mud/dirt roads
· Corduroy roads are the first instances of roads in Ontario. The corduroy road in UpTown Waterloo predates the 1800’s

Why is it important to document information about historical finds?
· Archaeological features, like the corduroy road in UpTown Waterloo, tell us about our past
o This feature tells us about the earliest Euro-Canadian settlers in the area (pre-dating 1800) and provides an example of the first roads travelled in Ontario
· From discoveries like this one, that connect our present to the past, we can learn about the evolution of Waterloo Region
· It is important – and regulated – that historical specimens discovered during construction be treated in accordance with the steps outlined in both the Project Agreement and the Ontario Heritage Act

What are the costs of the corduroy road?
· It’s too soon to speculate on what the costs will be. However, it is expected that any costs associated with the corduroy road will be managed within the contingencies that are being carried for Stage 1 ION LRT
· As we have done to date, any impacts to the schedule or costs for ION will be included in the staff update to Regional Council. The next update will be later this fall/winter

And finally, an interesting article in the Waterloo Chronicle about a bridge, probably removed when Laurel Creek was buried, across the original street in Uptown.


Pictures of Uptown Waterloo and Corduroy Road, on April 22nd, 2016, Earth Day




Back to the Future: Lakeshore Village, one of the First Suburbs in Waterloo. Jane’s Walk, 2015

Lakeshore Sod TurningThanks everyone for the phone calls and e-mail identifying the men at the Lakeshore Village sod turning. They are George Ellis, Col. Hugh Heasley, former Waterloo mayors James Bauer and Frank Bauer, and Helmut Oberlander.

Jim Bauer was Mayor of Waterloo for six years then served as the Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority from 1966 to 1990.  Lakeshore Men Identified from The Record.

The Jane’s Walk of Old Lakeshore attracted 31 people, most of them residents or former residents of the suburb. We started off at Albert McCormick arena where Angela Vieth told us about the arena and library and the plaque honouring Albert McCormick, well known for his work with minor hockey.

Next we walked to the Sunnydale Community Garden where two university

Sunnydale Community Garden

Jeremy and his friend dig the garden expansion for the food distribution section

students told us about their plan to have a work out group that will end up at the garden where they have a plot to raise food for the Food Distribution every Thursday at Sunnydale Community Center. They are very enthusiastic. I showed the walkers the “hundred year old” rhubarb donated two years ago that is doing very well. It came from the backyard of a 150 year old house.


Laurie Strome talks to the walkers about the social development work of Sunnydale

We then moved onto Jimmy’s Garden where community organizer Laurie Strome told us how Jimmy had died when knifed by some other boys from Kitchener while protecting his brother and sister at the roller rink a number of years ago. Sunnydale subsidized housing has come a long way with a community center, youth groups and a second community garden. The community center is helped by the House of Friendship with coordinator Linda Kruger who was on the walk as a birthday present to herself!

Heasley Park

Walkers learn about the Heasley Park Build and Col. Heasley

The walkers moved onto the Heasley Park playground. The playground was built by Lakeshore citizens. Angela pointed out a cairn for Col. Heasley which needs to be moved to a more prominent place in the park. Col. Heasley was known for his volunteer work and Rotary work. He was also a World War two hero.

We next walked by Cedarbrae Public School where I volunteer for the Breakfast Club every Monday. Children get a hot breakfast each morning along with fruit and bagels. It is sponsored by Nutrition for Learning.


Triliums in the urban forest

We next walked through the urban forest by Cedar Creek. By the forest is a crescent of upscale homes. The trilliums were out and I also pointed out some invasive species such as dog strangling vine. The forest does show some signs of degradation with a small gully used by mountain bikes. One year someone painted the trilliums red (No, they were not Robin trilliums, paint). There were a number of wild flowers and the jack-in-the-pulpits and marsh marigolds were just coming up. The sign warning of poison ivy caused some comments. Did you know that only humans and primates are sensitive to poison ivy? The wood is made up of maple trees. I also told the walkers about the naturalization of the creek by the Laurel Creek Citizens’ Committee.

Angela noted that the grass used to be mowed right down to the creek 20 years

Twin Oaks Trail

Twin Oaks naturalized trail

ago. When the area was naturalized, Angela got complaints form people concerned about weeds getting in their yards. I pointed out that moved grass led to flooding behind my house that went up to my gate. Not to mention the pesticides getting into the stream. Since willows, crab apple trees,and bushes along with other natural vegetation have grown up, the area around Cedar Creek no longer floods.

Our final stop was the Tollgate mini-mall. Developers have told me that they do not want to put stores in a subdivision like our mini-mall because it is hard to get tenants. However, walking to stores is part of the new urbanism.

Tollgate Mall

Tollgate Mall (closed on Sunday evening after the walk)

The Bread and Bretzel German Bakery has been in the mall for about 15 to 20 years under three owners. However, all owners retired, they didn’t go under. Presently the new owners are doing well, a man and his father and his wife. They are having trouble getting workers however. They have a small cafe and to make a go, all owners of the store also have a stall at the local farmers’ markets and catering. The Bakery gives day-olds to the Sunnydale Food Distribution each week. The walkers enjoyed a cookie from the bakery.

The other store that does well is the Children’s Marketplace for used children’s clothes and toys. She also has a Sears outlet. My grandchildren are well outfitted with the high quality clothing from the store. There is also a Mini-mart, hairdresser and music school, locally based businesses with local traffic.

The walkers returned back to McCormick area along a street behind Cedarbrae school that had a mix of duplexes, single family homes, townhouses, student residences, rentals and owned.

One of the first warm days of Spring, it was an enjoyable walk.



Tomorrow is Election Day. Don’t Forget to Vote for Jane Mitchell

Tomorrow is Election Day. Finally it’s your turn. Don’t forget to vote. Remember, I work hard for you, I’m experienced and I am a leader. You can find my five priorities and pledges on this blog and go to www.janemitchell.ca for my experience. I pledge to continue working hard for you, doing my research and giving you straight talk about the issues. Together we can make Waterloo and Waterloo Region the best place to live, work and play.


Taxi cab sex assaults

I’m absolutely spitting furious. I am a member of the Region of Waterloo Licensing and Retail Committee and I cannot believe the members had to find out about numerous, not one, but numerous alleged and proved sex assaults in taxi cabs through the Record. Before this, I can only remember one or two times when sex assault came before the committee. Of course the driver lost his license.

I have always told my daughters to carry enough money to take a taxi if a date goes bad or they feel unsafe or they have drunk too much. What am I to tell them now? Taxis are supposed to be a safe place for women.


In Waterloo, 70,000 students have just arrived to live away from home for the first time. Half of them are young women who can no longer call home for a ride.

I cannot believe that the Chair of my committee said, “Innocent until proven guilty.” and when I wrote to him upset about the Record article, he added, “We’re not Syria Yet”.

Taxi drivers are like teachers and priests. People who have a responsibility to work at a higher professional standard.  Yes I know it is only a very small percent of the taxi drivers who were convicted of sex assault and are on trial as the staff head of our licensing division said. But do we say this about the handful of murders in our community? About the number of regular assaults? No these are subjects of deep concern.

When I was a school trustee, a teacher was removed from the classroom if they were accused of a sex crime. Yet a taxi driver was still driving around! And my committee wasn’t told.

Then there is the case of the woman who was drunk and the driver was acquitted. I quote from the Record:

“The Crown argued a driver picked up an intoxicated 20-year-old woman at night and took her to a deserted parking lot in October 2012. It was alleged he assaulted her in the back of his cab, where he took off her clothes, fondled her and touched himself. At his jury trial this year, the cabbie argued the woman initiated the contact. He was acquitted.”

The woman was drunk, therefore not in the capacity to give consent. I know a number of women who have been raped and never reported it.This is why.

I have been told that everything is cleared up now. That it was all because our by-laws didn’t require the police to report to the Region, who give and take away licenses. And soon drivers will have to report charges as well as convictions. Actually we use driving records.  Surprisingly, not everyone reports their convictions. There will be cameras in the taxis. Because, as the head of the taxi association says, “It’s for everybody’s safety — drivers, passengers.”

The head of the taxi association is organizing a training meeting with police and drivers to tell them what is acceptable and not acceptable. Seriously? It’s not obvious? No, sadly, it’s not.  I suggest trained women from the rape crisis center teach this course.

The Licensing committee hates drivers who speed in their taxis and this is a hundred times worse. I am furious.

I have since talked to the Head of Licensing and he is working with the sex assault centre as well as working on the other solutions mentioned. He told me he takes this issue very seriously and the evening we spoke, he was heading out to check out taxis and how things are going on the first weekend of students’ terms.

Food Deserts and Food Swamps

Food Deserts (Not desserts!)

Imagine riding a bus for an hour to get to a supermarket to buy fresh fresh fruit and vegetables. This happens in the low income centers of a number of American cities and is called a food desert.  A few years ago, Waterloo Region Public Health and Foodlink tried out a pilot project that located temporary farmers’ markets in various neighbourhoods, many low income, throughout

Preston Towne Market

Preston Towne Market

Waterloo Region. The ones at St. Mary’s hospital and the Preston Towne Square come to mind. The pilots were not continued for various reasons, except for the market at Preston Towne Square which has grown in popularity over the years. It should be noted that supermarkets do exist in Preston, it is not a food desert.

Food Swamps (Includes desserts!)

Which leads to the interesting NEWPATH report on Diet and Food Environment Findings presented at Community Services yesterday. The Region participated in a project from three universities that analyzed 1,334 retail food establishments and 1,170 individuals from 690 households in Waterloo Region in 2009.

People kept two day food diaries and the researchers  looked at what kind of food establishments were near the individuals. The study participants had a range of income, walkability from their home and number of occupants. They reported their weight, height and waist circumference.

The study found that the availability of healthy versus unhealthy food influences our eating behaviors and and health outcomes. An extremely small proportion of residents in Waterloo Region eat a good diet, .3%. The percent for Canada is .5% so we are slightly worse. But everyone is truly bad! No wonder overweight and obesity is an epidemic.

The researchers found that the vegetables and fruit in Regional retail food establishments are of excellent quality and that Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, rather than gaps in access to healthy food (food desserts), have an overabundance of unhealthy food and beverages (food swamps). We are swamped with bad food and beverages.

Within one kilometre of study participants’homes:

There were five times as many convenience stores and fast food outlets as grocery stores and specialty stores.

There was over three times as much shelf space dedicated to energy dense snack food (chips and candy for instance) as compared to shelf space for vegetables and fruit. 

Convenience stores were on average 521 meters away, fast food outlets 582m and grocery stores 1001m away.

  Food stores with fruits and veggies close in price to junk food had less fat people living nearby. Those who shop at health and specialty stores were less impacted by price.

Food Deserts Versus Food Swamps

The study showed that in Waterloo Region, people do have access to healthy food and we do not have food deserts. However the results of the study suggest that exposure to unhealthy food is associated with poor diet. Also if healthy foods are priced the same or lower than unhealthy foods, they are likely to be purchased.  The current environment in the region is a food swamp, an overabundance of poor nutritional choices.

What can we do?

It is a strange thing to purchase medications to control obesity induced diseases then walk down an aisle filled with junk food and beverages to visit a cashier surrounded by chocolate bars for sale. Pharmacies gave up cigarettes, shouldn’t they also think about the selling of junk food? Parents across the region would thank our stores for removing junk food from the check out area.

Public Health will explore improving the affordability of healthy food and  beverages with such ideas as zoning by-laws, recreation centres, and healthy corner stores.

Temporary Food Markets

This brings me back to the temporary farmers’ markets. I asked the presenter if temporary food markets are  necessary since we don’t have food deserts, we have food swamps. She said that actually, they are still a good idea as long as the food is comparable in price to the junk food. Interestingly, this was one of the reasons given for a failure of the temporary food market pilots in low income areas.

The City of Waterloo has a Thursday evening market in Uptown that has become quite successful and of course bargains are to be had at the St. Jacob’s

St. Jacob's Market

St. Jacob’s Market still buzzing the Thursday after the Fire last year.

Market, Cambridge Market, Elmira Market, Kitchener Market and Preston Market (and how lucky we are to have these permanent farmers’ markets!) The City of Waterloo has just passed revised licensing by-laws and farmers’ markets are under flea markets with licenses valid at a particular location for 90 days on private property and 6 months on city property, and require public health approval. (Thanks Councillor Jeff Henry for this info)

The Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable is asking municipal candidates their opinion on zoning for temporary farmers’markets. The Roundtable wants broad zoning so the markets can pop up anywhere. Some candidates have privately told me they wonder if that is too broad. In any case, public meetings are coming up in the next year in Waterloo.

Temporary markets might help with locations for the strawberry trucks and corn sellers who park on the side of the road, sometimes causing traffic problems. Finally, after my questions in committee, Mary Ann Wasilka a citizen who was a delegation on another topic yesterday, sent me an interesting article about fruit and vegetable carts in New York city, basically pop-up vegetable stalls. They are for the poor in food deserts but they could be fun in the parking lots of our food swamps.

NEWPATH Research Project — Diet and Food Environment Findings. on page 24 of the Community Services Committee Agenda of August 12, 2014.

Food Spaces, Vibrant Places Campaign

Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable