GUELPH, Ont. – With the aim to make local food more accessible at Ontario’s restaurants, markets, grocery stores and institutions, the Ontario government recently introduced a new Local Food Act.
The act intends to create a system that supports farmers, increase awareness of the importance of eating local and set quotas for public sector organizations, holding them accountable to the public.
Mark Wales, president, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), said his organization looks forward to working with the government to better develop food priorities. He believes the government needs to focus on food literacy in schools and improve access to nutritious food for all Ontarians. “Ontario farmers are eager to meet consumer demand and preferences for local, fresh food — this act will help create more opportunities,” he said.
“This is a step in the right direction,” says Burkhard Mausberg, CEO, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. “We’re working with some of the biggest food buyers in the country, including hospitals, where local food is helping to increase patient satisfaction. Every step we take to encourage the sourcing of local food, however small, benefits everyone.”
Currently, nearly 1,500 public institutions in the province serve three meals a day. It’s believed a shift in public sector food purchases to 25 per cent local food, would benefit the local food economy to the tune of $200 million. With the most diverse agricultural system in Canada, Ontario has more than 200 different agricultural commodities, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, and ornamental flowers.
An earlier version of the Local Food Act, introduced by former premier Dalton McGinty, died when the government was suspended last October. Not everyone is a fan of the reintroduced bill. In a story in Better Farming magazine, a publication dedicated to Ontario’s professional farmers, PC agriculture critic, Ernie Hardeman, said the act is a step in the right direction, but added, “it sounds good, but it really doesn’t do anything.”