Thursday, 21 November 2013

Farm to Cafeteria Canada -- but Not in Alberta

Do you believe in sustainable food systems, concepts like farm-to-table, urban farming, buying loca?  Are you aware that there is not only a network of committed individuals and institutions working to bring nutritious food to Canadian schools, campuses and health care facilities, but funding available to support its development?

Farm to Cafeteria Canada is a national network that promotes, supports, links farm to cafeteria programs, policy and practice from coast to coast to coast.  Although Alberta Heath Services has been a regional lead and contributor to the Program since 2011, it doesn't appear to have put the Program into action in any of its facilities across Alberta.  Sadly,  only Augustana University Food Services, an extension of the University of Alberta, located in Camrose, has committed to a program to provide locally sourced nutritious meals in its cafeteria. In fact, a recent study reveals,  'schools and campuses. . . are more likely to provide local food than their healthcare counterparts (76% and 92%, respectively, versus 66% for healthcare facilities). They are also more likely to provide educational activities regarding local food (90% and 86%, respectively, versus 38% for healthcare facilities).   On a more positive note, 'Campuses and healthcare facilities are more likely to have local procurement policies or contracts with local providers (33% and 29%, respectively, versus 14% for schools).'  Although  there was an attempt, in 2012 to introduce the concept to Calgary schools, little has been done in the Province since to move the Program forward.  While no less than
FIVE  Canadian Premiers have stepped up to the plate, so to speak, by making solid commitments to furthering the local food movement in Canada, Alberta's is not one of them. Three Premiers have specifically  said they want to see more  publicly funded institutions purchasing local foods and one Premier has set a target of 50% local on every plate!  Alberta. . . . Where Are You?

Grants supporting sustainable food systems are available nationally through the Montreal based McConnell Foundation; and in Ontario and British Columbia through provincial initiatives. 

I have to wonder, if Alberta is one of the largest exporters of produce in the Country, why we have no commitment to encouraging sustainable food systems.  Perhaps we are mired down in TarSands to see.  If you have an opinion about this, perhaps you will contact Alberta's Farm To Cafeteria Program representative, Catherine  White, whose mandate  is to lead the development of regional networks, communications, marketing/promotion and/or capacity building.  Here's her email address: