NIC FEED Comox Valley

Local Food, Social Procurement and Grow-to-Order Contracts with Publicly Funded Institutions

By Sandra Hamilton Project Lead, FEED Comox Valley at North Island College

comox_valleyA vision to increase supply of local food in public institutions is behind the Food, Environment and Economic Development (FEED) Comox Valley project, one of eight national initiatives funded by The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and locally by the Comox Valley Regional District.

In the first year, FEED Comox Valley focused on building pilot partnerships. By summer 2015, agreement had been reached to supply five local demonstration crops, on a farm-direct basis, to St Joseph’s Hospital, Glacier View Long-Term Care Facility and North Island College.

The farm-direct model ensures the highest price for the farmer, while the taxpayer-funded institution received farm-fresh food at the best possible price. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that the institutions were able to source locally-produced food on a cost neutral basis.

Contrary to popular belief- price, trade agreements and food safety concerns were not the biggest obstacles. Large group purchasing contracts and public sector buying practices, combined with a significant decline in commercial-scale production on Vancouver Island were the most significant barriers.

Grow-to-order contracts offer an efficient and effective solution to overcoming these challenges, providing stability of demand for next generation farmers and stability of supply to public sector institutions. Learn more at

Project Lead, Sandra Hamilton is Canada’s First Social MBA; a leading Social Procurement advisor/practitioner and former Business Manager to clients such as Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong. Hamilton has designed both British Columbia’s & Alberta’s first Social Procurement Frameworks for local governments. Today, her work is focused on the advancement of Social Innovation and Social Procurement in Canada’s Public Sector. Hamilton is currently advising the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, (Fort McMurray) where Social Procurement has recently been approved by council to build cross sector support for blended social and economic strategies designed to improve community outcomes during the recovery process. 

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