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Good nutrition is key to healthy living at all stages of life. Renfrew County and District Health Unit offers nutrition programs, resources and services to promote healthy eating and create supportive nutrition environments. We work to make the healthy choice the easy choice where you live, work, learn and play.

We do not provide individual nutrition counseling or complete the Special Diet Allowance (SDA) or Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Nutritional Allowance forms.

Use of Community Gardens During COVID-19

This current guidance is provide by RCDHU under Dr. Robert Cushman, Acting Medical Officer of Health. This guidance is subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. Updates will be made when needed.

Community gardens are an important resource for residents of Renfrew County and District to grow fresh, healthy produce for very little money. Community gardens encourage physical activity, build food literacy skills and promote relaxation and enjoyment in the natural environment.

The requirements consider entrance restrictions, preparation of a COVID-19 safety plan, physical distancing, hand hygiene, signage and communication, cleaning and disinfection of equipment and surfaces, and include registration requirements to support contact tracing by the Health Unit if necessary.

As of April 8, 2021 the province considers community gardens as community services and allows them to operate under strict health and safety guidelines  Gardens are for planting, maintenance and harvesting food only.  Currently, they are not a recreational space or a place for any social gathering (e.g., children’s events, workshops).

Renfrew County and District Health Unit – COVID-19 Community Garden Toolkit

Renfrew County and District Health Unit is pleased to provide access to the following resources, which detail the requirements and steps that must be taken to keep community gardens safe, and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Under the Emergency Order, only gardens with the capacity to meet the public health requirements for community garden use are permitted to operate. We hope these resources support your efforts to plan and run community gardens that operate safely and contribute to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Link: COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Community Gardening
All gardeners must read, agree to the requirements in this tool, and let their coordinator know that they agree to follow these practices before returning to garden. They will also be required to confirm or send updated contact information to their community garden coordinator.  Specific practices are outlined for garden coordinators to ensure safe operation.

Link: COVID-19 Safety Plan Template for Opening Community Gardens – 2021 
Municipalities, community organizations and garden coordinators can use this COVID-19 Safety Plan Template for Opening Community Gardens to help them meet the requirement (new 2021) for a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan. Keep this plan available for anyone to review upon request.

Link: Tracking Tool for Community Garden Coordinators: COVID-19 Requirements
Each community garden member must provide current contact information and confirm that they understand and agree to follow the COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Community Gardening.  This tracking tool is for garden coordinators to record a) updates to member contact information, and b) confirmation that gardeners have read and agree to follow requirements.

Link: Cleaning and Disinfecting in Your Community Garden Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides great information including the difference between cleaning and disinfecting products, safety considerations, and the different types of disinfectants that are effective against COVID-19.


Signs need to be posted for community gardens to open. Link: Should I Enter the Community Garden? is a decision tree to be posted at entrances to community gardens. Gardeners must follow the directions to determine if they are healthy and that it is safe for them to enter the garden that day. Other required signage is listed in the COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Community Gardening with links to downloadable/printable resources.

Link: RCDHU COVID-19 Community Garden Sign In Sheet 

Link: RCDHU Community Garden Poster Consider posting these COVID-19 safety reminders for gardeners at the garden entrance and on shed doors.

Additional Resources

RCDHU COVID-19 Handout – Student Nutrition Program Grab n’ Go 

RCDHU COVID-19 Poster – Student Nutrition Program Grab n’ Go Letter

RCDHU COVID-19 Poster – Student Nutrition Program Grab n’ Go Legal

RCDHU COVID-19 Guidance – Food in Schools

Fact Sheet – Healthy Eating During a Pandemic  


Please note that the NutriSTEP® website is currently not working as it is under revision. 

The Nutri-eSTEP screen is a fast and easy way for parents or caregivers to find out if their child is a healthy eater. Answer 17 short questions and learn what to work on to improve eating and activity habits.

To do the screen, visit or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 and speak with a Registered Dietitian for free.

Renfrew County and District Health Unit offers the NutriSTEP® preschool screen as part of the Healthy Babies Healthy Children home visiting service. It is also available to parents living in Renfrew County and District by request. Call 1-800-267-1097 ext: 5 or 613-732-3629 ext: 5.

Bright Bites

Students need wholesome, tasty food and enjoyable eating experiences, but improving school nutrition can be challenging. BrightBites is a non-profit project that breaks this challenge down into fun, easy badges. Entire schools (elementary and secondary) or individual classes and groups can sign up as teams. By earning badges, teams rise up in the BrightBites Hall of Fame and receive recognition on social media. Teachers and other school leaders can use free BrightBites resources to guide their teams every step of the way. BrightBites is a fun, modern way to boost student well-being — one bite at a time.


Visit BrightBites for more information.

BrightBites is written and maintained by Ontario Dietitians in Public Health (ODPH) members.

What is food insecurity?

Food insecurity means a household does not have enough money to buy food needed for good health. It can range from worrying about running out of food, to choosing cheaper, less nutritious food, to skipping meals so children can eat or going without eating for a whole day or more.

Food insecurity is an urgent public health problem

Food insecurity leads to poorer mental, physical and social health. People who are food insecure have higher rates of:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Diabetes, high blood pressure and poor oral health
  • Healthcare system use and premature mortality
  • Asthma and prolonged mental health problems in children

Food insecurity in Renfrew County and District

  • 12 percent of households in Renfrew County and District are food insecure

The cost of eating

Public health visits local grocery stores every year to record prices for a list of foods – the Nutritious Food Basket survey. These prices help calculate the cost of a basic healthy diet. In 2019, the monthly cost of nutritious food for a family of four in Renfrew County and District was $879 per month.

The Cost of Eating in Renfrew County and District, 2019

The Cost of Eating in Renfrew County and District, 2018

The Cost of Eating Well in Renfrew County and District, 2017

The Cost of Eating Well in Renfrew County and District, 2016

The Cost of Eating Well in Renfrew County and District, 2015

Each year, the survey results show that many low-income households are forced to choose between paying for food and paying other basic living costs, including rent, utilities, medical expenses and clothing.

Food insecurity is an income problem

Food insecurity is closely tied to income. The lower the household income, the more likely a household is to live with food insecurity. Most at risk are those with social assistance as the main source of income, female lone-parent households with children and those living in rental housing. Low wages, part-time hours and lack of benefits mean people with jobs still lack the income needed to buy food. Job losses and work stoppages related to covid-19 have made the problem worse.

Responses to food insecurity

Food charities and community food programs (e.g., food banks, meal programs, community gardens/ kitchens) offer temporary food relief for those who use these services, but they are an ineffective response to food insecurity. They do not address the root cause of food insecurity – inadequate income.

The existence of food charity allows us to think that food insecurity is solved by donating to charity. This distracts us from the long-term solutions needed from all levels of government.

Acting on food insecurity

Effective solutions address the root cause of food insecurity by giving people adequate, secure incomes. Policies, programs and supports that let people cover their basic expenses are needed.

These include:

What can you do?

Learn more about food insecurity here and by visiting the Ontario Dietitians in Public Health No Money for Food is… Cent$less page.

Check out the updated Position Statement and Recommendations on Responses to Food Insecurity and accompanying infographic from Ontario Dietitians in Public Health.

Share this information about food insecurity and help break down myths about people living in poverty.

Use the customizable letter template found on the What can you do? page to urge political leaders to support income solutions to food insecurity.

Talk to your local MP and MPP about the need for higher social assistance rates, more secure job opportunities with benefits, and a basic income for all.

Spread the Word!

  • Like and follow RCDHU on Facebook (@RCDHealthUnit) and Twitter (#RCDHU) and share the posts.

Canada’s Food Guide

Canada’s Food Guide can help you eat a variety of foods in amounts needed to give you energy and proper nutrition, and reduce your risk for disease.

Ontario Dieticians in Public Health

Link: All resources

School Lunch Your Kids Will Munch EN      FR

Healthy Schools: Linking Nutrition and Mental Well-Being

Talk with a Registered Dietitian

For free and confidential information on general nutrition topics, call Telehealth Ontario toll-free at: 1-866-797-0000.

Visit Unlock Food to access credible nutrition information online: healthy eating advice, recipes, menu plans, videos and interactive healthy eating tools.


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Pembroke Office

TEL: 613-732-3629 or 1-800-267-1097

Renfrew Office

TEL: 613-432-5853 or 1-800-465-5000

Office Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.