October 31, 2008, 11:26 AM by Allison Hanes
Toronto council last night unanimously approved a local food procurement policy that will begin with a pilot project in 37
city day cares but could one day be expanded to nursing homes and homeless shelters as well.
Council also set 50% as the target for the amount of locally grown and produced food to be served through city programs.
Although the government management committee was initially cautious in its endorsement of the plan, councillor Cliff Jenkins
(Don Valley West), one of its members, was the one to put forth an amendment calling for the target.
Jamie Kirkpatrick, an activist with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, said the policy is a winner both environmentally and economically. Increasing the amount of local produce will support farmers in the Greenbelt and Southern Ontario and the descrease in greenhouse gases emitted from food being transported to Toronto from the other side of the globe will improve air quality.
"Toronto becomes the first and the largest city in Ontario to have a local food procurement policy," Mr. Kirkpatrick said.
The group had a few volunteers from city day cares deliver Ontario-grown apples to councillors to press their case in recent weeks, which were donated from a nearby orchard.
Over the next year, the amount of local food purchased for the city's child services department will rise to 40% while other departments will take the time to figure out how to up their Ontario food content too.
Last spring city staff proposed a policy that would have required 10% of food served at day cares and seniors homes to be both local and sustainable at an additional cost of $100,000 to the $11-million budget. But bureaucrats were sent back to the drawing board over concerns about how to define sustainable food, as well as the added cost for the same amount of food.
The reworking resulted in the current phased-in approach that focuses on local instead of sustainable. It is expected that local food might cost less in some cases.
Originally published in the National Post.