Momentum builds for local food in Ontario hospitals

The Star reports that although the the provincial government cut its $24 million commitment  to get more local food into hospitals and other public institutions to $6 million, it is still still working to get more local food into schools and hospitals.

Or at least it is according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

"We made a commitment to increasing a footprint in the public sector for local foods," says Melissa Zanette, press secretary to Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell.  Local food tastes better and is healthier, she says. And increasing consumption helps Ontario farmers and is more environmentally friendly than trucking it from afar, she adds.

Right now only 20 per cent of hospital food originates in Ontario, according to a survey of 33 Ontario hospitals by the group My Sustainable Canada.

Other hospitals endeavoring to use more local food include the Scarborough Hospital,  St. Joseph's Health Centre in Guelph, and St. Mike's in Toronto, the Star reports.  Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay is hoping to do so soon.

Bill Duron, director of the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund, told the Star buying local can cost up to 10 per cent more.  Duron says, hospitals and purchasing organizations can whittle that premium down by guaranteeing large long-term contracts with local producers. Costs can come down with improved portion control and better management of food waste, which some estimates place at 50 per cent in hospitals.

Current Costs Per Patient for Food and Snacks
St. Michael's Hospital: $7.69
University Health Network: $7.28
Mount Sinai: $7.44
Long-term-care institutions: $7.33

OCHU has campaigned for freshly made, local food in hospitals, but at least one major hospital  has objected, claiming local food networks were too weak.  

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