September 15, 2015 – The City of Thunder Bay has put its money where its mouth is when it comes to local food. Today, groups of residents from the City’s three Homes for the Aged visited Belluz Farms to learn about the fresh local vegetables which will now be appearing on their menus. During their tour, they saw the carrots, beets, cabbages and onions they’ll be enjoying being grown and stored at Belluz, where they’ll stay fresh long into the New Year.
Farmer Kevin Belluz was pleased to share the details during a short speech to the residents. “Thanks in part to the Greenbelt Fund and the Ontario Government we’ve been able to purchase equipment that facilitates the harvest and handling of high-demand crops like carrots.” Belluz says that these upgrades, along with others which now provide near-ideal conditions for long-term storage, have enabled their farm to come to an agreement with the City of Thunder Bay that satisfies both parties. “We’re now able to provide the City of Thunder Bay with carrots on the scale they need without any significant cost increase over last year.”
Thunder Bay & Area Food Strategy Coordinator Kendal Donahue also spoke, describing the forward-contracting process at the root of the new partnership as a key part of the Food Strategy’s implementation. “The City of Thunder Bay assessed its use of these four fresh vegetables and made an agreement to purchase them from Belluz for the next X months at a set price. This guarantees the City the supply they need at a price that won’t fluctuate as the supply of stored vegetables diminishes through the winter months.” At the same time, Belluz Farms is guaranteed that market for their fresh produce, contributing to their stability and bottom line.
Donahue says that this partnership is the latest step in the Food Strategy’s Broader Public Sector local food procurement initiative which has been ongoing since its launch with the initial grant from the Greenbelt Fund three years ago. Although it’s an important step, the next step – getting other institutions to get onboard with buying local – is, in some ways, out of the City’s hands.
“We’ve done the research and built a functioning model for buying local food at the institutional level that demonstrates that price and logistics aren’t the obstacles people think,” Donahue says. “We’ve paved the way for buying local – in fact, we’ve even driven our buses out here on it – and are looking to the other institutions in the city to climb aboard.”