Local Food Solutions Vol. 1

Local Food Solutions: Addressing Barriers to Ontario Food Procurement

Consumers are increasingly asking for and consuming more locally grown food. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association has listed local food as the top food trend for the past three years, while the creative food economy has seen an annual growth rate of 15-25%.

Consumers are seeking Ontario and regional food from restaurants, farmers markets and retailers, but are also increasingly expecting it from the broader public sector – hospitals, long term care facilities, post-secondary education institutions, schools, and child care centres.

While consumers have created the demand, foodservice in the broader public sector is only beginning to respond. While some institutions have significantly increased their use of local food over the last few years, many in the foodservice industry are reluctant to change.

The reasons most commonly raised reasons for not buying more Ontario product are misperceptions related to price, year-round availability, and the safety of Ontario grown and raised food. Ontario food can cost more, but it can just as frequently cost less – it depends on the time of the year, the harvest here compared to competing jurisdictions, and other factors. Proteins and many fruits and vegetables remain available year-round. Ontario protein and produce meet stringent safety standards, however, they are not always certified in the way that the foodservice industry requires.

The more significant barriers to more Ontario food in the broader public sector can be categorized into four main themes:

  • Access: Issues related to identifying and distributing local food.
  • People: Issues related to human resources and change management.
  • Policy: Barriers that flow from the rules, procedures and procurement methods of the broader public sector and foodservice companies.
  • Product: Barriers and perceived barriers associated with price, availability, and packaging.

This series of Local Food Solution Papers will highlight some of the more specific challenges within the four areas and steps to overcome them.

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: Foodservice in the Broader Public Sector

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