In 2016, the Government of New Brunswick launched its Local Food and Beverage Strategy, Buy/Achetez NB. Among the strategy’s objectives was improved availability of local food and beverages. Including more local products in schools was identified as an opportunity to that end. As a result, one of the key actions identified within the strategy was to “Evaluate and develop a model for local food procurement in all public schools, aiming for a … target of 30% local food”.
Work is already well underway to put more New Brunswick-grown foods in school cafeterias. In January 2017, the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries brought together people from the education sector, health and wellness specialists, community agents, the provincial school cafeteria network and farmers to collectively put together a strategy to bring more local foods to cafeteria menus while complying with the Department of Education’s Healthier Foods and Nutrition in Public Schools policy, known as Policy 711. Availability was identified as the greatest challenge to increasing the consumption of New Brunswick foods in provincial schools. The availability of foods grown in the province was hindered by both seasonality and lack of efficient transportation to distribute it. The group decided to join forces and establish the non-profit Cooperation in Agri-food New Brunswick (CANB) in order to overcome these obstacles.
The mandate of CANB is to source New Brunswick products, match the products available to the quantities required by schools, and develop a logistics system in collaboration with distribution/transportation partners to ensure the delivery of said products to schools. CANB partners within the provincial cafeteria network are also combining efforts to transform and preserve New Brunswick products to make them available all year. For example, 15,000 pounds of New Brunswick tomatoes were transformed this fall into frozen cubed tomatoes, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and both a vegetarian and a meat sauce for frozen lasagnes that will feature all local ingredients.
CANB has now hired a manager and is already shipping products to a small number of schools within the province. The cooperative is working on hiring a procurement specialist and a sales person to expand the number of schools that CANB will serve.