As awareness of the environmental, economic and nutritional benefits of local food has grown, so too has the demand for local food options at the University of Toronto.
The Local Food Standards were created by Food Services to promote an increase in the volume of local ingredients and products sourced by campus food providers, raise awareness of local food options within the university community, support sustainable and responsible farming practices, and ensure that clearly defined labeling standards are maintained across the St. George campus.
This document provides a comprehensive outline of the Local Food standards at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, including formal definitions and requirements for food providers using the Local Food label. It also identifies the unique challenges facing local food providers and suppliers in Ontario.
Within University of Toronto, ‘local’ food is defined as any food and/or food product that is partially or completely grown, raised or produced in the province of Ontario.
Following the Local Sustainable Certification standards of Local Food Plus, an Ontario non-profit organization committed to growing local sustainable food systems, the University of Toronto Local Standards further require that foods labeled as ‘local’ have been sourced from farms that:
- have safe and fair working conditions for their workers.
- provide humane conditions for their livestock.
- protect wild-life habitat and biodiversity in their region.
- actively reduce energy consumption, and conserve soil and water during production and transportation of food.
- reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic engineering.
The food service locations adopting the Local Food standards will ensure that they source food that follows the six criteria listed above. Where possible they will also make public the farms, cities, or regions where the food was produced.
The largest challenges facing year-round sourcing of local foods in Ontario are, unsurprisingly, related to climatic conditions.
The scarcity of Ontario-grown produce available during the winter months is a particular challenge for University kitchens due to the fact that the academic year coincides with late-autumn, winter and early-spring seasons. Many essential ingredients must therefore be procured from other sources.
It also so happens that many of the local farms supplying campus food providers are smaller in size than non-local factory farms, and are therefore more deeply impacted by unpredictable changes in growing conditions (such as floods or draught) or the economy (such as an increase in demand for a certain product). Even small changes in a farmer’s yield can have a direct impact on the food provider’s menu.
For these reasons it is not possible to source all food products and ingredients from local providers all of the time.
All food service locations that have adopted the Local Food standards shall participate in an annual food procurement audit to ensure transparency and accountability. Participating dining locations are also required to promote local food and partake in seasonal menu planning that reflects available local ingredients.
In return, Food Services at the University of Toronto will provide support to campus chefs through menu development, networking opportunities with Ontario farmers, and ongoing marketing and promotion of local food on campus.
To see how we are implementing local food standards on campus take a look at our Local Food Challenge page!