Written by Parthrajsinh Bharatsinh Gohil, Staff Writer

In the bustling metropolis of Toronto, where diverse cultures converge, food plays a central role. But with this vibrant food scene comes a challenge: waste. Enter the Circular Food Innovators Fund, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at transforming Toronto’s food system into a more sustainable, circular model. Let’s delve into the details of this innovative program.

Mission

The Circular Food Innovators Fund (CFIF) is a forward-thinking initiative launched by the City of Toronto. Its mission is to support local small businesses – both for-profit and not-for-profit in implementing innovative, zero-waste business models. Specifically, the fund focuses on replacing single-use and takeaway items with reusable food service ware that can be collected, cleaned, and redistributed for further use. By doing so, Toronto aims to reduce waste and foster a more circular food economy.

Funding

The Circular Food Innovators Fund (CFIF), administered by the City of Toronto, supports initiatives that reduce waste and promote circular practices in the food industry. Eligible applicants include both for-profit businesses (including business-to-business and business-to-consumer models) and registered charitable and not-for-profit organizations (encompassing Business Improvement Areas and academic institutions).

To qualify for the Fund, applicants must provide services related to food, such as food and beverage products for takeaway consumption, food delivery, or reuse system infrastructure for food businesses. Notably, reuse systems involving dine-in consumption are not eligible for funding.

The CFIF encourages diversity and inclusivity. Small businesses (with fewer than 99 employees) located within the boundaries of Toronto are eligible. Services funded through the Fund must take place within Toronto, except for culturally based programming delivered by urban off-reserve Indigenous-led organizations, which may extend beyond the city’s boundaries.

The city is actively seeks submissions from businesses owned by women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities, fostering innovation and sustainability in Toronto’s food system.

The Circular Food Innovators Fund (CFIF) is managed by the City of Toronto and has specific deadlines and milestones for applicants. If you’re interested in applying, please note that the application submission deadline is February 27, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. Make sure to complete and submit your application before this date.

Once the applications have been reviewed, successful applicants will be notified in April 2024 about their grant status. If your project is approved, the next steps involve signing the funding agreement and initiating the project, which is scheduled for May 2024.

Implementation

During the project implementation, there are important checkpoints:

  • Interim Report Deadline: Six months after the project starts, an interim report is due. This report provides updates on the progress and impact of your circular food innovation initiative.
  • Projects should be completed within 12 months from their start date. This timeline ensures the timely execution and delivery of the proposed activities.
  • Finally, the final report deadline is set for 13 months after the project begins. This comprehensive report summarizes the outcomes, challenges, and lessons learned throughout the project.

For both for-profit and not-for-profit fund recipients, the final payment is expected to occur before December 31, 2025.

Implementing circular economy practices is crucial for Toronto’s future. By supporting local businesses in adopting reusable systems, the CFIF contributes to waste reduction, resource conservation, and a healthier environment. It aligns with the city’s strategic priorities and fosters a sense of responsibility among entrepreneurs.

The CFIF considers grant funding requests starting at $5,000, up to a maximum of $35,000. Phase One of the fund has a total grant funding pool of $250,000. However, successful applicants must demonstrate alignment with the city’s priorities and overall demand for funds. If a proposed project exceeds the $35,000 limit, applicants must secure additional funding sources.