Efforts are underway to introduce more locally grown food to Grey Bruce institutions.The public sector local food project looks at food services and food programming in area hospitals, school boards, Georgian College, public health and long-term care facilities. Representatives of each sector met today to share information about local food and how organizations can increase access and use. Local hospitals and long-term care facilities spend an estimated three million dollars annually on food, providing tens of thousands of meals. However, a major portion of that spending leaves the region. The intent of the project is to get more local food into the food services of these organizations and help address the economic decline of rural communities.
“There are challenges and there are opportunities when it comes to local food and institutions.” says Kristine Hammel, public sector local food project coordinator. “A big vision, combined with small steps can get us there. The key to success is collaboration with all members of the food chain.”
The project catalogues food services in the ten largest public institutions across Grey Bruce. The report describes their current situation, highlights strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and identifies a range of potential opportunities for increasing the use of local food. The data also identifies the economic impact of current local food purchases.
Key challenges for public institutions to use local products for their food services include finding local suppliers that can provide the required products, volume, consistency, ordering and delivery. In some cases, the management structure is also a barrier as many organizations outsource food services which lack the means to use local products.
Important messages for the agricultural community also emerge from this project. Consumers associate local food with fresh products; in particular with produce (fruits and vegetables) and seasonality. However, farms that produce primarily fruits and vegetables represent just 1.5 per cent of farms in Bruce County and 4.0 per cent of farms in Grey County. There is a disconnect between the image of local food and what is actually grown locally.
Next Steps: Food Charter for Public Institutions
The public sector food review is the first step. It identifies successes and the local food champions behind those successes. It discusses obstacles in the way and in some cases practical examples of how to get over those obstacles.
Next step is to ensure priority is placed on healthy eating and local food through developing policy and following through with a commitment to reachable goals and measurable results by means of a Food Charter document tailored to the capacities of each of the partnering institutions. That could assist other businesses and organizations to create a Food Charter appropriate to their circumstances.
Other goals include:
This project is led by the Grey Bruce Health Unit, funded by Broader Sector Investment Fund (Greenbelt/Province of Ontario) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and supported by Foodlink Grey Bruce and the Grey Bruce Healthy Communities Partnership.
- building stronger relationships between institutions and suppliers and growers
- informing institutions of existing opportunities to purchase local food
- informing growers and suppliers about institutional opportunities and needs
- promoting the health and economic benefits of local food across Grey Bruce.
Grey Bruce Health Unit
519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 ext 1463