TORONTO — Jeff Leal, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund and David Capobianco, director of Foodservice at Burnac Produce, gathered at a Bay St. Subway restaurant in Toronto yesterday to announce the new “Stop at Subway for Ontario Grown” project. The announcement is part of Love Ontario Food Week, which runs from June 6 to 12.
The Greenbelt Fund, in partnership with the Ontario Government, will provide Burnac Produce with $90,000 through the Local Food Investment Fund (LFIF) for the project, which ensures all 1,300 provincial Subway locations use Ontario-grown tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers during the harvest season.
“Through the LFIF, our government is helping expose people across this province to the great foods grown, harvested and made right here in Ontario, while helping create new opportunities for our local agri-food producers,” said Leal.
“Today is a great announcement,” said Mausberg. “There are 23 new agriculture-related investments, totalling $1.35 million. These projects and investments are going to keep money in Ontario and reduce environmental impact. Projects and investments like this help strengthen our communities, create jobs and boost our economy.”
Burnac will work with Ontario farmers to grow and package tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and peppers to meet Subway standards. “During the harvest season, we will make sure 50 to 100 per cent of these vegetables served at Subway will be Ontario grown,” said Capobianco. “We’re making a permanent change to ensure local food dollars are kept in the local economy.”
Capobianco also explained how Ontario Subway locations would stock and serve those vegetables when they were not in season. “The local harvest season starts in the middle of July, or pending on the product we could also start in the middle of September, so [providing locally grown vegetables] will be in effect as long as local harvest season is available,” he said. “When they’re not in season they will come from U.S. growing regions for the most part. But as local becomes available, we’ll switch right over.”
Minister Leal was asked if the low dollar has increased Ontario’s agricultural exports. “There’s no question that the current exchange rate has been very helpful for Ontario,” he said. “When you look at southwestern Ontario, with the expansion of our greenhouse operations, a lot of that now is being exported to the U.S. We’re going to be in this exchange rate differential for a significant period of time and Ontario is certainly taking advantage of that. My ministry is getting inquires on a weekly basis for opportunities to invest in the Ontario agri-producing [sector]. This is very good time to be in agriculture in Ontario. There’s no question that the exchange rate has really helped to drive business.”
Through the LFIF, Greenbelt is investing more than $730,000 in support of 10 projects in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region. These projects will bring more locally grown and raised food to Ontarians.
The provincial government announced other funding projects throughout Love Ontario Food week as well, including Local Fresh Cut Implementation ($70,000), in partnership with Bondi Produce Co. Ltd., Creating a Provincial Plate ($130,000), in partnership with Dana Hospitality and the 2016 Production Opportunities Program ($45,000), in partnership with FoodShare Toronto.