Greenbelt Fund Local Food Solution Papers -- Volume 3

Access: Identifying Fresh Ontario Food

Knowing where fresh food comes from plays an important role in the ability of an institution or their foodservice operator/distributor to buy Ontario product.

While some institutions are interested in buying Ontario product, others are interested in buying food from their own region so would like more geographically specific product origin information (in addition to, or instead of, the designator ‘Ontario’ or ‘local’). Identifying the point of origin is currently a challenge for many distributors and foodservice operators and their broader public sector customers for a number of reasons.

More specifically:

Distributor and foodservice operator information databases have not traditionally been designed to record the origin of fresh food products (fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.) so they cannot provide that information to their customers.
Public institutions usually do not track or report their local or overall food purchases, so clients have no idea how much of the food they eat is Ontario grown.

Progress Being Made:

Example: A broad-line distributor created a local product list for BPS customers that contains detailed descriptions of the local product they carry, along with the name of the producer and availability.

  • How? They assembled a team that conducted an audit of their current product list to determine what was Ontario grown or raised. The team then went out to existing suppliers, and subsequently to new suppliers, to find new products to add to their product list.
  • Result: They now have a growing list of Ontario products they provide their BPS (and other) customers.

Example: A foodservice operator recorded a ‘geo-tag’ for each of the products it purchases and tracks the place of origin for all the products.

  • How? They hired a person to contact all their vendors to determine what products were from Ontario, and then stored the information in their database. This data was then transferred onto their order guides which are used to place purchase orders on a weekly basis.
  • Result: Managers can identify Ontario items on their order guides and build menus around these items. The foodservice operator is also revising its supplier contracts to require suppliers provide product origin information with their regular reports.

Steps to Identifying Ontario Food:

FARMERS

Immediate:
1. Make it easy for your institutional customers to identify that your products are from Ontario. If you haven’t already done so, register for and use the Foodland Ontario logo on all products that meet the definition.

Short-term:
2. Provide resources (menu ideas, recipes, cooking/preparation tips) for customers to know how to use and promote your Ontario items on their menu.

FOR INSTITUTIONS THAT OPERATE THEIR OWN FOODSERVICE

Immediate:
1. Conduct a food audit of inventory from current suppliers.
2. Highlight Ontario items on order sheets and menus.

Short-term:
3. Work with existing suppliers to identify Ontario product that can replace non-Ontario product.
4. Develop new menu items using Ontario products.

Long-term:
5. Create new fields in inventory management systems to include product origin.

FOR INSTITUTIONS THAT USE FOODSERVICE CONTRACTORS

Immediate:
1. Ask your current food service provider to identify Ontario items on menus.

2. Ask your current providers to measure the amount of Ontario foods they currently sell to you and track it.

Short-term:
3. Prepare RFPs that require proposals identify and promote Ontario food and require contractors to report the amount of local foods sold. 

Long-term:
4. Prepare RFPs that request minimum targets for a percentage of Ontario foods purchased.

 

Join the discussion and get involved. The Greenbelt Fund has created a new series of Local Food Solution Papers featuring solutions and insights on how to overcome challenges in procuring more local food. This series of Local Food Solution Papers will highlight some of the more specific challenges and steps to overcome them.

If you want to know more about the value chain, consult Connecting the Links: The BPS Foodservice Supply Chain.

Look for the next paper in the series. Follow @ontariofresh.