On Monday of this week, the Ontario government re-introduced the Local Food Act. The new Bill 36, “An Act to enact the Local Food Act, 2013” (pdf) contains two provisions generating most of the response in the press: local food procurement and Local Food Week. Some have complained that the Act would replace “Ontario Agriculture Week” with “Local Food Week” -by celebrating both in the week before Thanksgiving.
Local food procurement by public sector organizations is the focus of most of the Act’s provisions, which lay the groundwork for mandated “goals or targets” for various sectors. These goals or targets are a way of addressing one of the practical constraints to encouraging procurement of local food in the public sector: metrics**. Research on Ontario’s health care sector suggests that these mandated “goals or targets” are only half of the ‘metrics’ that are required. The report’s authors found that the province must first establish clear and definitive boundaries around the concept “local food” -and how it is to be measured- and then give public sector organizations the opportunity to establish baselines. This is the approach used by the Canadian Environmental Law Asoociation’s model bill [Ontario Local Food Act 2013 – pdf], which contained -as a first step- the assessment of existing local food procurement (along with production, processing, and distribution).