Lori Stahlbrand, president and founder of new Toronto-based nonprofit Local Flavour Plus (LFP), says she wants to “shorten the distance from farm to fork” by building and supporting local markets, and by connecting Ontario farmers to local institutions.
This fall, the University of Toronto became LFP’s first institutional partner, committing to purchase up to 10 per cent of its food from LFP-certified producers. The deal will bring fresh, local and sustainable food to many of U of T’s cafeterias and residences – and make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
The partnership between U of T and LFP to bring “sustainable food” to campus marks the first of its kind for a Canadian university. It’s a concept that looks at the whole cycle of food production and consumption. LFP certifies farms based not just on reduced reliance on synthetic pesticides but also on labour standards, animal welfare, attention to biodiversity and habitat preservation, energy efficiency and packaging – all values that were once intertwined in the concept of organic before organic went corporate, says Stahlbrand.
Anne MacDonald, director of ancillary services at U of T, says the LFP proposal came at an opportune time. “We’ve encouraged all departments to think about sustainability,” says MacDonald. “It couldn’t have been a better fit.” Not to mention, she adds, that the school is always looking for ways to “perk up” its food service: Campus food doesn’t have a great reputation.”
But since the launch of the partnership with LFP, MacDonald has received thank-you letters. “Students never thank me! I’m usually the purveyor of mystery meat and the like,” she jokes. U of T’s eventual goal is to buy locally as much as possible without increasing costs to students. “Given a choice, the younger generation will opt for the environmentally friendly option,” says student and food-review committee member Coralie D’Souza. “We’re giving them that option.”