Guest Blog: Sustain Ontario

The Greenbelt Fund champions local food leadership. We invited our friends at Sustain Ontario to share their success story in launching a toolkit for municipalities and institutions to make the changes to bring more Ontario food to the table.

The Challenge

Purchasing fresh, sustainable, local food supports economic growth and environmental sustainability in Ontario. Every time we buy local we build a stronger relationship with our local farmers and businesses and create positive impacts within our food chain.

It’s easy for consumers to buy local. We can shop at local farmers' markets or buy directly from farmers we know. In grocery stores there are products marked local thanks to the work of Local Food Act and other not-for-profit organizations such as Localize Services and Land Food People Foundation.

When it comes to institutions or municipalities that want to support local produce, the process isn’t as straightforward. Sustain Ontario created a toolkit, Local Sustainable Food Procurement in Municipalities and the Broader Public Sector, to assist institutions and municipalities looking to initiate sustainable procurement policies and programs in their region.

The Toolkit

The toolkit provides case studies of procurement initiatives across the province and the United States, including policy language examples for other institutions to use in their own Request for Proposal process. By analyzing perceived barriers to local sustainable food procurement, specifically policy and trade agreements, this toolkit equips good food advocates, industry stakeholders, and civil servants with facts and case studies to demonstrate the potential for effective, compliant procurement practices that invest in local sustainable food.

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The toolkit is the first of three tools to support accelerated implementation of initiatives and policies necessary to advance local food systems. These tools are part of a two-year project generously funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and are focused on priority topics raised by regional and municipal food groups involved in Sustain Ontario’s Municipal Regional Food Policy Network. This project also includes Sustain Ontario’s Food Initiatives Greenhouse, an online, searchable resource-sharing platform currently in soft launch with final launched set for September 15, 2016.

Drivers of Success

Developing these guides would not have been possible without the expertise and insights contributed by many leaders in Canadian food systems development, raising the bar by championing transformative policies and initiatives. Full lists of contributors and references are included in the toolkit.

Sustain Ontario is a province-wide, cross-sectoral alliance that promotes healthy food and farming. Our mission is to provide coordinated support for the development of food systems throughout the province that are healthy, equitable, ecologically resilient, and financially viable through collaborative action. The Greenbelt Fund has supported Sustain Ontario’s projects in improving local food procurement by municipalities, and most recently the Say Yes! To Local Food Literacy in Schools project. Learn more about what it means to be a Sustain Ontario member.