by SUSAN MANN
A Toronto-based organization that promotes local sustainable food production is pulling out of the business of connecting food to markets.
Local Food Plus wrapped up its market facilitation arm earlier this year.
Yusuf Alam, chair of the Land Food People Foundation, the organization that has run Local Food Plus since 2008, says a rise in for-profit enterprises offering similar services, as well as dwindling grant resources contributed to the decision to end market facilitation.
Established in 2005 by Lori Stahlbrand, a former broacaster, with the assistance of Mike Schreiner, currently leader of Ontario’s Green Party, Local Food Plus (LFP) facilitated local food acquisition agreements for several public institutions and private businesses including the University of Toronto and independent Toronto grocer Fiesta Farms.
The foundation has also decided to directly manage farm certification, the other main activity of Local Food Plus, Alam says. Currently, there are more than 200 farmers and processors that have been certified under the LFP “certified local sustainable” program.
The program will continue to apply the same Local Food Plus standards as in the past. “It will still be what’s known as LFP, Local Food Plus, certification but the organization that’s administering it will be Land Food People Foundation,” Alam says.
Nevertheless, the foundation, comprising two staff members and a board of directors and described on its website as a charitable non-profit organization committed to meaningful food systems change in Canada, is “reassessing our programming overall and our next steps. We have a few options on the table,” he adds.
Alam says the Local Food Plus program was one of the leaders in spotlighting local, sustainable food systems and has shown people “there’s room for many players in this area. What we’ve seen is there are for-profit organizations that are taking up this role (getting sustainable food to market and bridging the gap between retailers and other institutional buyers and farmers) at this time.”
That’s a good thing, he says. It’s a really good sign that people are stepping into the market facilitation role and “charities don’t have to play that bridging role any more.”
But the for-profit presence has meant that the foundation’s funding organizations no longer support non-profit market facilitation. The foundation has received funding from a number of different organizations in the past, such as the Greenbelt Foundation, Metcalf Foundation and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
Alam says the foundation wants to make it clear it will continue collaborating with all its colleagues in the food sector and it will continue advocating for sustainable food as a priority “in all of our policies and institutions as well as the homes of folks around the province. We are pledging to continue.” BF