Local Food Provided by Macdonald Campus Farm

Imagine a campus that is able to serve in its dining halls fresh fruits and vegetables direct from its own farm. At McGill this is the possible because of a partnership between the McGill Food and Dining Services and its Macdonald Campus Farm. That is as local as it gets where the distance from farm to plate is only a 30 min drive on the highway. The Macdonald Campus Farm grows a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, eggplants, pumpkins, melons, peppers, tomatoes, artichokes and more. They are the largest supplier of fruits and vegetables when in season from Aug-Oct. Now, eggs will be sold direct to the downtown campus cafeterias. It used to be that they get shipped from the Macdonald Campus Farm to processing at Burnbrae Farms in Ontario and then back to McGill again but now it comes direct allowing McGill to have the freshest eggs possible that are only 3 days old. McGill procures sustainable, local and fair trade products from local farmers and feeds it students in residence cafeterias, production kitchens and cafes on campus. McGill has teamed up with the McGill Food Systems Project to define sustainability standards for local food. Local food is within a radius of approximately 500 km, with the exception of citrus. In the fall, 50% of the produce procured is local, 50% in the autumn, 25% in the spring and 75% in the summer. McGill spends $2.5 million dollars on “focused purchasing” of which 19% are local, sustainable and fair trade products that have been certified by a third party. In Partnership with the McGill Food Systems Project, Local Food Days in residence cafeterias provides opportunities for students and staff to learn about local food, for students to ask questions and is a platform to tests student research. There is also Food Awareness Fort Night whose goal is to make students more aware of where their food comes from, and how they can make sustainable choices. They would like to have more awareness and promotion about their local food options. McGill runs 75% of their dining services. Of the rest of the 25%, Aramark owns 40% of the food services at McGill and operate in 11 locations on campus worth $10 million dollars. Aramark had won the bid by responding to the university’s demands of purchasing at least 50% local, and increasing locally produced items and better service in the form of greater variety and healthier choices. Oliver de Volpi is the head chef of the McGill Food and Dining Services and local foods champion on campus. A few years ago, there was an interest by McGill to do Flavours of Montreal and pressure from student groups for local food procurement. The university was open to looking at possibilities and willing to put into action the demands of students, which made this possible. The benefits have been win-win on the McGill community. The Mac farm is now able to do more research on the farm, there are twice as many crops planted and student workers hired.

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