Schools, universities and hospitals: Cities’ new allies to change the food system

people eating in restaurant

A new book entitled Institutions as Conscious Food Consumers taps into the growing understanding that institutions buy a lot of food, and the shifting their food-buying practices can go a long way towards transitioning to a more sustainable food system. Hospitals, schools, universities, corporate cafeterias, even prisons, are all big players in the food system.
Here are the book’s key messages:

• Institutional foodservice has enormous purchasing power, serving millions of meals each month.

• Institutional procurement can impact both how food is produced (upstream) and what people eat (downstream).

• Because their purchasing power is so big, any changes institutions make to their food-buying practices will lead to changes in the food system

• Institutions face some challenges when they buy food — they need large volumes and consistent supply of both fresh and processed food.

• Local governments can help facilitate connections between institutions and food producers to support the ongoing growth of local and sustainable markets.

Here in Toronto, long-term care institutions run by the City of Toronto are shifting to buying more from local farmers; the University of Toronto, which was the first university in Canada to support local sustainable food, continues its commitment to supporting local farmers; and the non-profit Meal Exchange works with students to support “college and universities across Canada to be leaders in serving good food for all”.

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