Today is Broader Public Sector Food Service Day. It’s a mouthful, I know. Pun intended. Yet, hiding in that tag is good news for anyone in Ontario who eats — and by extension, all the folks who produce artisanal products, raise animals responsibly, and grow fruits and vegetables for all of us.
Local food is getting a bit of ribbing these days. Check out this great video from the new IFC show “Portlandia,” where local eating is pushed to the extreme, with great comic effect. Hilarious.
Still, at the end of the day, we’ve eaten three meals, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs [OMAFRA] wants to make it easier for more of that food to come to us from nearby.
I first got involved with OMAFRA by writing several newsletters for the ministry’s Savour Ontario initiative. It gave me the chance to profile chefs, producers, farmers and distributors working together to put Ontario food into our best restaurants.
The initiative has branched out. The ministry has cast a wider net, focused on the “broader public sector.” In that net are 150 hospitals, 250 childcare centres run by municipalities and colleges, 100 long-term care facilities, 22 universities, 28 colleges, 100 school boards. You get the picture. That’s a lot of meals. And that’s one sweet spot of opportunity for producers to expand their markets.
“Ontario’s Local Food Champions 2011” is a report released last week by Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. It profiles three Local Food champions who are making strides in putting more local food into the public sector. The report features a university executive chef, a municipality and a health-care facility, all of whom have produced valuable, scalable models. You can get the report as a pdf at the bottom of the page here.
To make it easy for others to follow these models, the ministry launched OntarioFresh.ca, a groundbreaking online marketplace to help grow the businesses of folks doing this good work. What you’ll find is a registration site where you can sign up in advance of the official launch of the full site in September, when you’ll have full access, including the marketplace feature. OntarioFresh.ca is a Friends of Greenbelt Foundation initiative with funding from OMAFRA.
Worth noting, and found on the OntarioFresh.ca site, is the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund, which provides grants for anyone working to get more Ontario food into public sector foodservice. The ministry calls this “the value chain.” There’s something in it for everyone. If that’s you, plug in.
In the meantime, drop by the Local Food Plus booth at the Green Living Show, running until Sunday. Say hey to Erin Shapero, one of Canada’s leading experts in local sustainable food. Erin is Manager of Institutional Relations for Local Food Plus. She’ll hook you up.
Photo by Lino Micheli aka The Accidental Farmer