Mohawk College Leverages Purchasing Power to Support Local Food and Farmers

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Jeff Leal at Mohawk College_Local Food ProcurementHamilton’s Mohawk College is receiving $100,000 from the Greenbelt Fund and Ontario government to develop the first provincial local food procurement model for Ontario’s 24 colleges, purchasing local food from Ontario farmers for their cafeterias.

The pilot project, announced Wednesday of Local Food Week, is expected to increase local food purchases by $1.5 million over two years.

This Hamilton Spectator article explains that Mohawk will contribute a matching $100,000 to the project, and has assembled a “dream team” committee to develop the plan by January 2018. Janet Horner, our GHFFA Executive Director, has been appointed to the Advisory Board. Their first meeting was the day following the announcement.

“The Mohawk College project has brought together a number of us who have been working on different aspects of the procurement puzzle – healthcare procurement, university procurement and municipal procurement,” says Janet Horner. “I am hopeful that we will be able to develop practical approaches to procurement on the College level that will have lasting benefit for the students and staff who eat at the cafeterias and the farmers that produce the local foods that will be served.”

Mohawk came up with the idea themselves and approached the Greenbelt Fund and province with a plan. Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said the project “can become the blueprint for all public institutions, which spend $745 million on food each year.”

Alan Griffiths, a farmer and Mohawk’s manager of sustainability, said the grant will help solve a problem and meet a need: “Our college is surrounded by some of the best farmland in the province and country. Yet getting locally-grown food at the college’s cafeteria has and remains to be a challenge.”

“Right now, it’s easier to buy an apple grown over 4,000 kilometres away in California than it is to buy one grown in a farmer’s orchard less than 40 kilometres from where we’re standing. This project will help fix that problem.” Read more from The Hamilton Spectator here.

To aid other post-secondary institutions in increasing the procurement of locally-sourced foods, results from the pilot project will be shared at a provincial summit for Ontario colleges in the fall of 2017.

Read more and watch a video of the announcement on Mohawk College’s website.