Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Local Flavour Saver: University of Toronto Buys into Home-Grown Model

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Local Flavour Saver: University of Toronto Buys into Home-Grown Model

Article excerpt

FOR MOST students and staff, the University of Toronto's switch from Sodexho Canada, a large food management corporation, to Aramark Canada, another large food management company, seems benign. How hard, they might ask, can it be to fry up chicken fingers and fries? But when classes resumed in September, people dining at one of Canada's most urban universities learned that more, much more, than a name change accompanied the switch.

Local Flavour Plus (LFP), the brainchild of Lori Stahlbrand, a well-known journalist and environmental advocate, is all about "local." This young, Toronto-based, non-profit organization will help Aramark serve up portions of good down-home food at the University of Toronto by sourcing products grown or raised within Ontario. Local greens could replace fries. Chatham tomatoes may displace a Californian variety.

LFP plans to prove that Foodlink Waterloo Region is right. Foodlink believes that "A full range of buyers including wholesale and distributors, restaurants, food retail, and larger institutions could ultimately source products closer to home," a much needed bright prospect for ailing farm communities.

Problems associated with the long-distance transportation of food is well documented. Trucking strawberries all the way from California, for example, burns fossil fuels unnecessarily, and time spent in transport means produce isn't very fresh when it arrives. The current system of food production and transportation, says Stahlbrand, "just doesn't make sense--environmentally or socially." This situation has opened a door through which LFP has entered, bringing Aramark and the University of Toronto along with it.

By telling consumers the stories of the local farmers, LFP helps farmers market their goods. This boosts the local farm economy. But LFP has broader goals than to simply increase the local content of purchases made by the University of Toronto and other institutions. Stahlbrand's organization promotes a sustainable food system. To do so, it is introducing a new certification program for producers, one that goes beyond requiring ecological or organic production.

The tremendous support LFP has received from foundations demonstrates that Stahlbrand is on the right path. The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation handed over a cheque for $540,000 and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation enthusiastically awarded LFP a grant of one million dollars.

Farmers receive points for doing well in any category of LFP's standards for certification. …

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