Just north of Montreal, almost a third of the City of Laval is fertile farmland. It is a city that has great potential to provide fresh, local and nutritious produce direct to its citizens. However, much of the fruits and vegetables found in grocery stores travel an average of 2 600 km. The City recognized this and worked in collaboration with Équiterre and local food co-op Paniers-Saveurs de Laval to increase local food purchased by Laval institutions. 14 institutions including hospitals, long-term care facilities, a youth center, a daycare, and restaurants participated in this project. Menus featured local produce from Auteuil farm and the co-op Paniers-Saveurs de Laval ensured the produce was delivered to the institutions.
Highlights shared from staff participating in the program in the first year included the sense of belonging in a community and supporting the local economy. They value the producer and its products, and trust the produce is fresh and of good quality. There were also challenges such as the high prices of the produce, small range of products available and period of time available because of the short growing season.
The City of Laval funds the project and works together with Agropole and Équiterre for its development, implementation and operation. The program started with a small volume of orders but it has been going strong and will return. Équiterre suggests that to further facilitate the purchase of local food, the Quebec government can adopt institutional procurement policies to support a local, community-based food system. As well, it can adopt measures and set up regional centers for the processing and distribution of local products.