Food infrastructure is the foundation required for the production, processing, storage, distribution, retailing, consumption and waste management of food within the local food system.
Developing a sustainable food system depends on a strong and supportive infrastructure in both the public and private realms. Storage buildings and processing plants, roads, rail lines and shipping facilities are integral parts of the infrastructure that move food from farm to plate.
Only 70 years ago, most food consumed in the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur was grown in backyard gardens or on nearby farms. Farms sold directly at the farm gate, at farmers’ markets, or to distributors who supplied independent food stores. The first supermarket opened here in the 1950s and the TransCanada Highway was completed through the area in the 1960s. Then in 1970, the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur amalgamated, which resulted in the single urban centre of Thunder Bay. Today, long-distance truck transportation has become the main means of moving food, as transportation networks, food suppliers and distributors have become more globalized and as consumer buying has favoured big box food stores offering processed and fresh foods mainly from elsewhere.
Building a more robust local food system requires rethinking the infrastructure needed to support a local food supply chain. For instance, creating a local food hub (or hubs) in Thunder Bay or the surrounding area would allow the producer community to expand their production capacity, and extend fresh food product availability past the growing season. This would make buying local food an easier choice for businesses, institutions and individuals.