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Locally-grown food top of mind, says report


August 26, 2013
By Canadian Pizza

Aug. 26, 2013, Ottawa – Food grown and consumed locally across Canada should be more deeply integrated into the broader national food distribution system; a move that would benefit local producers and ultimately the whole food economy, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.

Most food grown locally in Canada is currently sold through large retail chains and major distributors within the food system, a pattern that is likely to continue.

“Local food is a growing part of the Canadian food system and interest has surged in recent years,” said Michael Bloom, vice-president of organizational effectiveness and learning, in a media release. “What we’re finding is that there is room to expand the role of local food systems in Canada, and that in doing so, there are significant economic benefits to be realized.”

The Centre for Food in Canada report, Cultivating Opportunities: Canada’s Growing Appetite for Local Food, finds that the economic impact of local food systems is most significant in Quebec and Ontario.
Across Canada, 20 per cent of food is consumed within the same province in which it is produced—a widely used definition of local food. Quebec leads with 29 per cent of the province’s overall food production (in total dollar value) being consumed by Quebecers. In Ontario, 24 per cent of food produced (by value) is eaten within the province. Locally-produced food also makes up a substantial share of the food consumed in British Columbia (16 per cent) and Nova Scotia (13 per cent).

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For the purposes of this research, local food is defined as food consumed as close to where it is produced and processed as is reasonably possible, taking into account regional differences in seasonality and availability.
Consumers indicate that some of their motivation for purchasing local food is to support their local economy and farmers. Many also believe that local produce is fresher than alternatives.

Availability and convenience, as well as the price of some local food products, are the main barriers preventing consumers from buying local food.
The report recommends a number of actions that could support local food systems.

· Provide small and medium producers with additional information and guidance on direct marketing and selling local products to large retailers in the broader food system.

· Retailers, food service operators and distributors should extend their work with local producers to increase the availability and visibility of local food, and label these products as local.

· Governments – both provincial and local – could expand their leadership in local food marketing and labeling initiatives.

· Public sector institutions could make procurement of local food a priority when cost-effective and efficient to do so.