Local Food Solutions Vol. 2

Access, People, Policy and Product

Motivated by the growing demand for locally grown food, public sector institutions have begun making the switch to local food for their clients.

However, this transition from non-local food is not without its challenges. The key barriers to getting more Ontario food into our public institutions are related to access, people, policy and product.  Overcoming barriers within these four thematic areas can lead to systemic changes across the food value chain, create a level playing field for farmers, and ensure institutions are able to access Ontario product.

1)  Lack of access to products from Ontario farms is a fundamental barrier to increase the amount of Ontario food in public institutions. Specifically, this barrier includes obstacles such as:

  • the inability to identify Ontario products on order guides and menus;
  • the complexity of identifying Ontario ingredients in processed products;
  • lack of aggregated local supply; and,
  • challenges in the distribution of local and regional food products.

2)  Increasing consumption of local food involves people and the complex structures and job duties that are part of every institution and company. Major contributing factors to the difficulties in people implementing change are:

  • attitudes and beliefs;
  • perceptions of their ability to affect change;
  • lack of time and resources available to make changes; and,
  • the largely non-existent links between the foodservice industry and farmers.

3)  Institutions, farmers, and the food service industry have to follow government policies and regulations as well as their own policies, rules, and procedures. Some of these policies and rules are real barriers while others are not. Policy issues include:

  • trade agreements;
  • food procurement processes and procedures;
  • definitions of local food; and,
  • regulations on menu planning and other aspects of foodservice.

4)  The products farmers produce need to meet the needs of broader public sector institutions. The foodservice value chain needs to work together to overcome product-related barriers. These include issues related to:

  • lack of understanding and experience working with the seasonality of fresh Ontario food;
  • food safety and traceability;
  • price, and perceptions about price;
  • variations of  product specifications; and,
  • industry promotion and rebate fees.

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.