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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.

On April 25, 2020, the province of Ontario announced that Community Gardens are considered essential services during the COVID-19 emergency,  and are now permitted to open, provided that requirements and instruction from local medical officers of health are followed. The requirements consider entrance restrictions, 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.

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: Community Gardens – Safe Operating Requirements for Gardeners & Coordinators
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: Action Plan for Opening of Community Gardens 
This is a tool to support garden coordinators in particular, but can also be used by all gardeners to think through how the requirements will be met, given that all gardens are unique. It is not mandatory to complete, but encouraged. It includes examples of strategies to meet requirements and can be helpful for answering questions related to how  you are operating should you be contacted by the Health Unit. It includes a sample sign-in sheet and a link to a Tracking Tool for Community Garden Coordinators: COVID-19 Requirements.

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 Safe Operating Requirements for Gardeners & Coordinators.  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.


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 Safe Operating Requirements for Gardeners & Coordinators 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  



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 EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-5102 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 was formerly named “Nutrition Tools For Schools”, and is written and maintained by Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH) members.

Sip Smart! Ontario

Sugary drinks are everywhere. Pop, fruit “punch”, sports drinks and many other drinks have a lot of sugar. Too much sugar is not good for a child’s health. The extra calories in sugary drinks can add up quickly. This can lead to an unhealthy weight, putting a child at higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Reducing the intake of sugary drinks is a key strategy in curbing the rising rates of childhood obesity.

To learn more about Sip Smart!™ Ontario in the Community click here.

Sip Smart!™ Ontario is a licensed classroom educational program that helps teach children in grades 3 to 7 about sugary drinks and about making healthy drink choices.

If you are an educator and interested in learning more about Sip Smart!™ Ontario in your classroom click here.

Many people in Renfrew County and District do not have enough money to buy nutritious food. This is known as food insecurity or food poverty. Food insecurity is a serious public health problem.

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.

Each year the survey results show that many low income people are often forced to choose between paying for food and paying other bills, like rent. When diets are poor and meals are skipped, people have higher rates of disease, mental health problems and health care use.

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

Responses to Food Insecurity

Food charity (food banks, soup kitchens) offers temporary food relief but is an ineffective response to food insecurity for many reasons.

Food charity does not address the root cause of food insecurity, which is poverty. The existence of food charity can also lead you to think that food insecurity is solved by donating to charity. This distracts us from real solutions. To effectively deal with food insecurity, an income response such as a basic income guarantee is required.

Public education and advocacy to address the root causes of food insecurity and hunger are needed. To learn more about the growing problem of food insecurity and the need for effective solutions, see the Position Statement on Responses to Food Insecurity and accompanying infographic from the Ontario Dietitians in Public Health ( formerly Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health).

No Money for Food is… CENT$LESS

No Money for Food is... Centslessl.
No Money for Food is… Centsless (empty white plate with silver knife and fork).


No Money for Food is Cent$less is reproduced with permission of Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Let’s make food insecurity a priority in Canada

Food insecurity is a serious problem locally, in Ontario, and across Canada. People that are food-insecure lack sufficient funds to feed themselves and their families. Poverty is the main reason people are food-insecure. Food insecurity is a serious public health problem that impacts physical, mental, and social health and is a large burden on our healthcare system. Annual health care costs for a person living in a food-insecure household can be more than double the amount of someone who is food-secure.

Renfrew County and District Health Unit is promoting the No Money for Food is… Cent$less campaign, developed by Ontario Dietitians in Public Health. The campaign aims to increase awareness of the need for income levels that help everyone to meet their basic needs. When incomes are low, households may reduce spending on food to pay rent and keep the heat on. Food charities and community food programs might provide temporary hunger relief to the few that use their services, but people remain food-insecure.

The solution is adequate incomes through jobs with livable wages and benefits, social assistance rates that reflect the true costs of living and a basic income guarantee in Canada.

Visit the campaign website No Money for Food is… Cent$less to learn more about the food insecurity problem, how it affects people’s health, and why income-based solutions are the best response to this problem.

Take time to:

  • electronically send the open letter to the leaders of the federal Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, and Green parties urging swift action to address the problem;
  • and ask federal candidates what they and their party would do to reduce rates of food insecurity.

Spread the Word!

  • Like and follow RCDHU on Facebook (@RCDHealthUnit) and Twitter (#RCDHU) and share the posts.
  • Share the No Money for Food is… Cent$less campaign on social media using this link:

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.

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