Ontario farmers, processors and distributors will be able to use new funding to make market connections with public-sector institutions such as hospitals, schools and municipalities.
The province last week rolled out a Broader Public Sector Investment Fund with the title-appropriate goal of increasing the amount of Ontario food purchased by the broader public sector.
The initiative will include funds for local projects that are expected to encourage business between institutions and farmers, as well as the development of an “electronic marketplace” to link buyers with sellers across Ontario.
The deadline for the fund’s first round of applications is set for Nov. 1.
Jaco Lokker, director of food service for the University of Toronto, said in the province’s release he expected the move to be “the start of systematic change for Ontario institutions.”
The university, he said, “is looking forward to enhancing our local food-buying efforts with this program. This kind of funding will enable universities and other public institutions to make significant additional purchases of Ontario food.”
The fund will also back the publication of a provincewide report to track “positive support” of local foods in the public sector, the province said.
The fund is to be administered by the Greenbelt Fund, a sister organization of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.
“The Greenbelt has been the driving force for local food for over five years,” Burkhard Mausberg, president of the Toronto-based Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, said in the province’s release. “The province has taken the lead promoting local food and when Ontario institutions lead the way, others will follow.”
The Greenbelt is the province’s designated zone of permanent protection for about 1.8 million acres of farmland and other “environmentally sensitive” land around southern Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe.
The province last week also quoted a favourable review for the new program from Vancouver environmentalist, geneticist and television host David Suzuki, who said the province is “leading the way, this time with the local food movement — reducing our carbon footprint, cutting our food miles and making thoughtful choices that help stop climate change.”