Together, schools, hospitals, post-secondary institutions and Crown corporations spend millions of dollars on food each year. But why is only a small percentage of this food bought locally? Putting Manitoba on the menu is a huge opportunity to strengthen Manitoba’s local food sector and economy.
The Manitoba on the Menu report, funded by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD), looks at the current buying practices of Manitoba’s institutions, using information provided by eight institutions over a six-month period.
Six of the eight participants were purchasing very low amounts of local food, ranging from only 2.5% – 19% of their total food budget. But, The University of Winnipeg stood out with a very high amount of local food on their shopping list. 64% of their food comes from local sources, showing us that buying mostly local food can be a reality, even for a large institution.
“Managing locally-sourced food is actually easier,” says Kirsten Godbout, manager of food operations at Diversity Foods Inc., the U of W’s food service provider.
“If we get a fresh head of lettuce from Manitoba, it’s going to have a better shelf life than something imported from California.”
Putting Manitoba on the Menu
If Manitoba’s other institutions increased their local food purchasing habits to be within the U of W’s range, it would bolster the local food economy, create jobs, support local farmers and reduce Manitoba’s carbon footprint. But, it’s easier said than done.
Financial limitations, poor knowledge of local food sources and negative perceptions about food safety are some of the challenges preventing institutions from buying local.
It will take collaboration an all levels; between government, institutions, local producers and suppliers to help strengthen our local food system, grow our economy and prevent climate change. It’s time for us to put Manitoba on the menu.
Read the full report here.