Food Panel to Discuss ‘Buy Local’ Mandate

September 09, 2013 - News Release

Flexibility, not legislation, is what’s needed to encourage institutions such as hospitals and long-term care homes to buy local foods, according to a research study at the University of Guelph.

The three-year study examined potential effects of requiring government institutions to buy local. The researchers will discuss their work at “Food and Healthcare: Does Local Fit?” and follow that with a panel discussion. This symposium will be held at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) Conference Centre in Guelph Sept. 13, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Local Food Act reintroduced by the provincial government in March 2013 is intended to encourage development of markets for Ontario foods. The act doesn’t include quotas or legislated requirements for the amount of local food sold or bought by retailers or institutions, such as schools and hospitals. However, it will require Ontario ministries to buy local food.

Facilities need flexibility in procuring local food, said Paulette Padanyi, professor emeritus in Marketing and Consumer Studies and the project’s lead researcher.

"We believe that continued flexibility is appropriate because individual facilities across Ontario have different strategic priorities, different budgetary circumstances and constraints, different human resource capabilities and different local food supply situations,” said Padanyi.

Prof. Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of the College of Management and Economics and one of the event organizers, said food purchasing is a complex issue.

“Buying local is important to our farmers, but how far should we go when we look at our public institutions’ food purchasing policies? That's a question we'll ask ourselves.”

The U of G researchers worked with My Sustainable Canada and the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care.
Their report said that, unlike individual consumers, institutions face constraints in buying food. Those include food preparation according to Canada’s Food Guide, food safety regulations and low-sodium requirements.

Padanyi said these constraints and limited food budgets have led to wide variations in food service strategies and budgets among hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“Health-care facility management is complex and involves balancing needs and responsibilities," she said.

"We need to debate where locally produced food fits in and understand fact-based pros and cons in order to make informed, responsible decisions in this area.”

Panelists at the event will include Prof. Mike von Massow, College of Management and Economics (CME) at U of Guelph; Chris White, VP, Rural Ontario Municipalities Association; Heather Fletcher, manager of food services at St. Michael’s Hospital; Prof. Helen Keller, University of Waterloo; and Denise Zaborowski, manager of domestic marketing at OMAF.

The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Register online to reserve a seat.

8:30 a.m. - Registration and light breakfast
9 a.m. - Introduction and review of current food policy context in health care
9:30 a.m. - Research study findings and audience Q & A
11 a.m. - Panel discussion, audience Q & A and suggestions for next steps
1-2 p.m. - Networking Lunch

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or

University of Guelph
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Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1