New local food rules offer new opportunities for producers

The New Brunswick government’s new buy local policy for meetings and events is a good step but could lead to future opportunities for food producers and companies, according to a Fredericton business owner.

Government departments will be encouraged to buy local food for meetings and events

The New Brunswick government’s new buy local policy for meetings and events is a good step but could lead to future opportunities for food producers and companies, according to a Fredericton business owner.

Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Mike Olscamp released the new policy on Friday that expands the government’s existing buy local initiative to promote the use of local and healthy food at all government hosted meetings and events.

"As a government, it is important that we lead by example," Olscamp stated in a release.

"This new policy supports our local economy and offers opportunities to showcase the high quality of New Brunswick's food and beverage sectors."

The policy does not set out any strict guidelines on how much food has to be locally sourced. But it does offer checklists for organizers to consider when arranging a meeting.

The policy encourages government officials to serve locally grown and produced foods "often."

It also suggests ways to keep costs low by purchasing fruit and vegetables when they are in season.

Levi Lawrence, the owner of Fredericton’s Real Food Connections, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the impact this policy will have on producers in New Brunswick.

“A lot of the economic benefits of buy local is the money circulates in the region, instead of leaving to go to producers in other parts of the world,” Lawrence said.

He wrote a letter to the provincial government that called for a policy that would require local food be purchased by departments.

Lawrence admits there are some obstacles that remain in the way for farmers and other food producers.

The local food industry is not at the point yet where a government department can call a catering service and ask for a meal that is entirely made from local food. But Lawrence said there are some easy places for government places to start if they are serious about adding local food to their menus.

“Every single break and every single government subsidized meeting or conference, they all have apples. We can provide apples every single day of the year,” he said.

The upside for local producers, Lawrence said, will come later as more catering contracts come up for negotiation and they are encouraged to purchase more food from within New Brunswick

“In my mind it is a future opportunity,” Lawrence said.

“With a policy like this, when those [contracts] come up for renewal they can put them in the [request for proposal] and tender requires that a certain amount of local food be purchased. So it is a long-term benefit to have something on paper.”

Lawrence also said it is up to local producers to help the government achieve these objectives.

“It will be people like me and other producers to keep people accountable and make sure we are making things as easy as possible on our end,” he said.

The provincial government’s policy does include a statement that the buy local provision any food purchasing decisions “will not contravene internal trade or procurement agreements. This policy promotes local purchasing but does not mandate it.”

About the Author

Daniel McHardie

Reporter

Daniel McHardie has been a reporter with CBC.ca in New Brunswick since 2008. He also co-hosts the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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