FEED Comox Valley Update

FEED Comox Valley – January 2015. A focus on farm direct supply

            It’s crunch time in the Comox Valley for the “Adopt a Farm Initiative,” and we are busy trying to match demand from North Island College, St Josephs hospital and Glacier View seniors home to local farms, before planting ramps up at the end of this month - this is, after all, Vancouver Island.  The goal is to replicate the Kathy King model from Wake Robbins in Vermont. FEED Comox Valley is working to confirm grow to order direct supply, contracts for fresh whole produce, which will match the demand of an institution to a local farm. By partnering with two organic farmers, both professional agrologists, who moved to a 26 acre farm in the valley from the Vancouver area a few years ago, we are also trying to move beyond just local, to include as much organic supply as possible. Jamie at Vancouver Island Farm Products is representing the local farmers, and is very open to adding organic produce to the VIFP portfolio. By early February, FEED Comox Valley plans to host a gathering where the key institutional buyers and partner farms, can meet one another for the first time.  By offering a proof of concept farm direct pilot, we hope to create inspiring and powerful communications material, which will be used to overcome a lot of misconceptions about farm direct delivery to institutions.  



Photo 1: An aspirational sign.

Photo 2, Jaymie, Sandra and Chef Dawn have fun loading up the first farm direct delivery to North Island College

            An additional challenge will be tosee if we can secure any contracts for organic, local produce within the institutional budgets. It has already been established that organic carrots are not economically viable as the price difference is just too great. I am hopeful that we will secure a demonstration pilot project for local, if not organic crops. In this first year, the conversation is focused on crops that do not require processing. For example, the hospital and seniors home will not buy potatoes unless they are peeled and chopped, nor will they buy spinach locally as farm direct cannot be sufficiently cleaned. Carrots,  Cucumbers (Long English), Sweet Onions and Tomatoes (Slicing), appear to be the best fit among high volume crops; Blueberries, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Green Onions, Lettuce (Head), Potato (Early Warba),  Red Peppers and Zucchini, are lower volume crops which the health institutions are open to commissioning direct from a Canada GAP farm. The goal is to arrive at agreed weekly, farm direct, volumes and set prices per # for the entire 7 month local growing season. 

Key learning’s to date    

  •  Institutional change really does take a long time
     
  • Seniors homes are better target institutions than hospitals
     
  • It is all about people and relationships. A willing leader is key, engaged partners can move mountains. Reluctant participants will drown you in process
     
  • Data Disclosure Agreements: We have yet to sign the DDA and secure the procurement data from Island Health/CPS - Aramark for Campbell River Hospital. Yesterday, after four months of conversation, Aramark communicated to Island Health that under the terms of the existing contract pricing cannot be shared with a third party, even with a DDA.
    FEED Comox Valley is now deciding whether or not to sign the DDA to access the pack size and volumes. At this time, it is unlikely that we will do so.
     
  • Outsourcing of public procurement precludes the level of transparency reasonably expected from the public service contracts
     
  • Group Purchasing Contracts are a significant barrier to re-localizing the food system, Fresh Food needs to be removed from GPO contracts in healthcare
    To support smal scale, sustainable agriculture, Food Service Managers need access to an unincumbered budget to buy fresh, local food off FMSC contracts. However, Institutional concerns around reducing volumes with FSMC, resulting in increased prices, certainly appear to be valid. To better serve the taxpayer, enhanced thinking and planning is needed to develop more socially demanding, and more transparent contract terms/language, during the Pre-procurement stage of negotiating FSMC contracts. 
     
  • Food and highly technical medical equipment require different procurement strategies
     
  • Awareness and advocacy to remove fresh food from, ever larger, Group Purchasing Contracts, with corporations such as HealthPro, is required. This subject resonates with Island Health, the Minister of Social Innovation, academics and food advocates.  I am receiving wide interest in this topic
     
  • Island Health procurement, including food procurement, is scheduled to join HealthPro in May 2015; there are three, six month extensions possible. This issue has been raised with the BC Minister of Health, and I now have a contact in the Ministry of Health to discuss this issue further
     
  • Group Purchasing Contracts contravene the BC Small Business Accord and make it impossible for local farmers/small businesses to bid on taxpayer funded food contracts. Procurement through HealthPro in Western Canada is valued at $1billion; only the very largest multi-nationals can respond to RFP contracts of this size and complexity.
     
  • Health authorities are under extreme budgetary pressures. Re-localizing the food system is not a strategic priority. They are unlikely to change unless provincially mandated to procure more food, sustainably and closer to home in support of the next generation of  Canadian farmers.
     
  • Social Public Procurement Policy is required at the Federal and Provincial levels.
     
  • Canada’s antiquated public sector procurement policies result in thousands of lost opportunities to leverage our tax dollars to achieve desirable and targeted social outcomes, such as food security.
     
  • Aramark is supplying local food in Ireland. Sodexo is supplying local food in Vermont schools and hospitals, Compass has signed a contract for 25% local food at Ryerson. If the Food Service Management Companies can do it in other jurisdictions, why not here?  
     
  • The national governments of the UK, Italy and Brazil have legislation in support of their small scale farmers. By 2016, every country in the EU will have enacted a Social Public Procurement policy.  Where is Canada? 

    I will wrap up by asking:-
    Why does it take three multi-national companies to get a locally produced carrot into a hospital on Vancouver Island?

Region: 

Comments

I'm sounding a bit like a broken record here, but after reading this third rich blog post this week I still need to say again thanks for sharing all of these rich insights and lessons learned!

And honestly its hard to envision planting season starting soon when here in Montreal we are in deep freeze :)

Please keep us in the loop on your conversations about the need for greater transparency about public spend on food through GPO contracts/flexibility for institutions to purchase 'off book' for locally available items. The lever of the BC Small Business Accord is very interesting. It reminds me of the a guideline in UK's Defra "A Plan for Public Procurement: Food & Catering. Balanced scorecard for public food procurement" (which from your research you are probably already came across but for others in the group you might not have seen it) - the directive is 4.3 Inclusion of SME's (small and medium-sized enterprises) with a goal of 25% of government's spend to either directly or in supply chains go to SMEs by 2015 (Page 39 )

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

As I mentionned in the conference call, I have on my list to follow-up with the Halton Health Care contacts about how they have worked with their GPO contract and to see if either are available to have a conversation with you or potentially a conference call/webinar with those in the Learning Group interested about what they've learned from the process. I'll let you know what I hear back from them! 

Jen

Thanks for all of this Sandra - many challenges, many opportunities!

Since one of the levers for change is changing language in the contracts with food service companies, it seems important to know what the contract situation is - I suspect that in each of the examples you gave (Vermont, Ireland, for sure Ryerson), the change happened via the RFP requirements. What is the contract situation in the various institutions you're working with?

Agree that the BC Small Business Accord conflict with GPO use is an interesting one. Do you see potential for getting some media around that?

Beth

Thanks for all of this Sandra - many challenges, many opportunities!

Since one of the levers for change is changing language in the contracts with food service companies, it seems important to know what the contract situation is - I suspect that in each of the examples you gave (Vermont, Ireland, for sure Ryerson), the change happened via the RFP requirements. What is the contract situation in the various institutions you're working with?

Agree that the BC Small Business Accord conflict with GPO use is an interesting one. Do you see potential for getting some media around that?

Beth

Thanks for all of this Sandra - many challenges, many opportunities!

Since one of the levers for change is changing language in the contracts with food service companies, it seems important to know what the contract situation is - I suspect that in each of the examples you gave (Vermont, Ireland, for sure Ryerson), the change happened via the RFP requirements. What is the contract situation in the various institutions you're working with?

Agree that the BC Small Business Accord conflict with GPO use is an interesting one. Do you see potential for getting some media around that?

Beth