Accessing the Broader Public Sector for Growers from the South Central Ontario Region

Erie Innovation and Commercialization along with partners from the producing sector, processors and end users are investigating the feasibility of a regional food distribution system to access and serve the Broader Public Sector (BPS) in south-central Ontario in order to improve the livelihoods of south-western Ontario growers.

These institutions include schools and post-secondary institutions, hospitals, long term care facilities and correctional facilities. The goal of the project is to provide a business plan to access the BPS institutions, including a market assessment, consider the competitive market and challenges to be faced and determine the best option for a regionally based local food distribution system.

There is an ever-increasing emphasis on local food systems, and they are being turned to as an alternative for farmers to regain more control over production and profit, as well as address issues of environmental pollution and emissions and improve the health of local citizens. Local food systems are believed to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place, while at the same time, contributing to the small urban and rural economic vitality. Local food systems address the rural livelihoods of local farmers in providing access to fresh and local food while redistributing value along the food value chain.

As significant purchasers of food, public sector institutions are seen as a logical first step providing local farmers with a market for their product; they offer producers a consistent, predictable demand that is planned and purchased in advance. Ontario, in particular, has made great strides in increasing the local food purchases of their public sector institutions. In recognizing their ability to strengthen rural livelihoods, the Government of Ontario created the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund to facilitate market connections between Ontario farmers and Public Sector Institutions.

To develop this project, it was necessary to inventory the market opportunity for the Broader Public Sector and create a database.

This has allowed us to estimate the size of the BPS market in the SCOR area, understand the facilities procurement requirements and processes and to describe the BPS food distribution network and competitive landscape. A business plan on how to address this sector will be released. This information will be shared through public release and information sessions throughout the SCOR region.

The report will also be released on the Documents section of the Erie Innovation and commercialization website, which can be accessed by clicking here.

- John Kelly, Vice-President of Innovation and Commercialization of Food&Vegetable Growers Association