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Saanich council passes local food motion

Saanich district council unanimously passed a motion last night to adopt a local food procurement policy.

Councilor Dean Murdock introduced the motion. He told The Tyee the policy would make locally-produced food a priority at district events and within its food services. It would apply to vendors at public festivals, for example, as well as catering at internal meetings. It would also apply to the cafe at the district's recreation centre, said Murdock.

Murdock said that city staff is looking at a local food procurement policy already in place at the University of Victoria - which estimates 45 per cent of the produce and 36 per cent of the meat it buys comes from Vancouver Island.

"The University of Victoria feeds 20,000 people a day. We're not going to approach anything quite of that scale," Murdock said. "It's incremental. The hope is that it will inspire others to follow suit."

Murdock says city staff also have to determine the geographical boundaries of "local."

"Certainly, there's a lot of capacity here, but it's a question of the type of products you're talking about," he said. "There are some things we just don't have here."

As interest in local food procurement spreads across what's known as the MUSH sector - municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals -- there is concern that a pending trade deal with the European Union will quash efforts to direct tax dollars specifically to local suppliers.

Murdock said the Canadian EU Trade Agreement (CTEA) wasn't a topic of discussion at last night's meeting "but it's something I'm aware of."

"Staff are going to develop terms of policies that will be done with respect to agreements," he said. "We're proceeding on behalf of Saanich residents. We think this is to the benefit of residents and local producers."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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