The Big Picture: Metro Toronto Convention Centre goes local

NEW LOCAL FOOD PROCUREMENT INITIATIVE SETS AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHER LARGE INSTITUTIONAL FOOD BUYERS

the metro toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) has been a Toronto landmark since 1984. It is a destination location for local, national and international business events, conferences and meetings.

Boasting a mind-boggling two million visitors per year, almost one million meals served per year, innovative meeting and conference options such as their “Zero Waste” events that are part of their vast sustainability initiatives and a long-time local food menu option, the MTCC is an internationally respected organization. Classically trained Chef Angelo Fernandes, with MTCC for 25 years now, has been cooking everything from scratch since the beginning.

While up until now there has been an informal local food policy in place, the convention centre is now implementing formalized and permanent measures with their new local food procurement initiative. This is not only exciting news for Ontario’s farmers since this initiative supports the local economy, but it also demonstrates that the interest in buying local is stronger than ever.

At MTCC the project make local food the rule, creating a uniquely Ontario culinary experience for all their visitors.

“I want people to leave from Ontario talking about the food like they do in France, Italy and Spain,“ says Kelly Hughes, the brand new Local Food Procurement Officer at the MTCC.

Kelly Hughes knows food. An accomplished Chef and caterer, a long-time local food and farmer advocate, a culinary and food skills instructor and a published food writer, she has a deeply personal connection to food.

While her new role as the MTCC’s Local Food Procurement Officer seems to have been carved out for her, Kelly has no illusions that this process is going to be easy and she certainly has her work cut out for her. A large part of the initial process is about creating opportunities for the engagement and education of staff and current suppliers, building relationships with farmers and spreading the message to clients and to the public.

Over the next several months Kelly will be looking to increase the amounts of Ontario foods on the convention  centre’s menus, wherever possible. From fresh produce, to meats and cheeses, wine and baked goods, pastries and bread, the goal is to keep their purchasing money within the province and feed Ontario’s economy. One of the biggest achievements of such an initiative is the type of awareness it will bring about what is available to us right here in Ontario.

“This doesn’t mean you won’t see chocolate or coffee on the menu anymore. It means that if we are including food that is available in Ontario, if it grows here or is made here, we will always choose Ontario first,” says Kelly.

Funded through the Greenbelt fund — (a fund set up to protect Greenspace in the greenbelt of Ontario), and partnered with the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, the money will allow the MTCC to implement their local food strategy. Once in place and the program is under way, the plan is that it should be able to run independently.

Metro Toronto Convention Centre is showing great leadership in this initiative and the economic impact is substantial. While they don’t have hard numbers yet, they estimate that with 50 percent of their food sourced locally, approximately $1 million will be going back into Ontario’s economy.

Kelly Hughes and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre understand full well that the bottom line goes beyond economic benefits. Visitors at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre come from all over the world and Ontario’s farmers are getting the opportunity to be showcased front and centre.

“We want to give an Ontario food experience but we also want farmers with jobs, clean air and clean food. In the end it’s not just about what we’re doing. We want everyone to do this.” •