Due to the emergence of centralized distributors, the loss of local food infrastructure, and the dominance of corporate food service companies, food is now sourced from all over the world. This means that within Thunder Bay and Area, the rest of Ontario, and much of Canada, public dollars used for buying food for hospitals, day cares and other public sector institutions are not being spent on food businesses that would benefit the local economy.
This is a serious oversight when we consider that the Broader Public Sector (BPS) plays a significant role in the food economy and has dramatic buying power. The Ontario healthcare system alone serves an estimated 115,000,000 meals to patients every year, with the value of food in all those meals estimated to be over $285,000,000. In 2014, BPS institutions in Thunder Bay and Area will spend approximately $10 million on food. Shifting even 10% of purchases to locally grown and processed foods would create a $1 million market for farmers and processors. Public institutions have the potential to use their significant purchasing power to invest in local agriculture, while providing opportunities to other local food entrepreneurs along the supply chain.