At Peak of Ontario’s Thanksgiving Harvest, New Poll Finds Overwhelming Majority Prefer to Buy Local Food

Toronto, October 2, 2007 - Do you know where your Thanksgiving pumpkin came from? How about the corn, yams or even the turkey you'll put on your table? A new public opinion poll on food released today by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, finds that central Ontarians are very concerned about where their food comes from.

Ninety-one percent of respondents say they would buy more locally-grown products if there were more available and it was convenient to do so. Most respondents (94%) say that the Greenbelt is an important source of locally-grown food, with sixty-three percent saying it is very important.

“The support for local food in the Greenbelt is coming through loud and clear,” says Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. “Just as Torontonians cheer on their local teams in hockey, baseball and basketball, they're also cheering on and supporting local food. The Greenbelt is doing its job because it is providing a local and secure source of food.”

The poll, conducted by Environics in partnership with the Greenbelt Foundation, shows that 88% of respondents say they read origin labels on the foods they buy. Eight in ten prefer to buy locally-grown produce and over half say they do buy local at least once a week. Farmers' markets are a big draw for consumers seeking local produce. Respondents say it is important to them that farmers' markets sell locally-grown food (86%) and that they can meet the farmer (63%).

In addition to consumers choosing local foods because of added taste and freshness, the vast majority of poll respondents are concerned about food security agreeing strongly that locally-grown food supports local farmers (85%), the local economy (82%), and preserves farmland (70%). With over 7,000 farms protected from urban sprawl and development within its borders, the Greenbelt produces over 100 varieties of vegetables, all types of meat, dairy, most of Ontario's stone fruits such as peaches, pears and cherries, and specialty products such as herbs, honey and other goods.

Greenhouses and new farming techniques that extend the growing periods mean greater availability and even year round supplies.

The Greenbelt's 1.8 million acres (728,000 hectares) wraps around the Golden Horseshoe and is vital to the quality of life of Ontarians. It encompasses the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park, agricultural land, pristine environment, and hundreds of rural towns and villages.

“An encouraging result of the poll is that respondents said they are more likely to buy products with a label saying, 'Locally Grown,'" says Elbert van Donkersgoed, Executive Director of the GTA Agricultural Action Committee. “This is important for farmers to know because a lot of their products move through the food chain anonymously. The survey suggests there is an economic advantage in keeping the farmers' presence with the product all the way to the consumer.” He added that “Since imported food is still filling supermarket shelves, the marketplace needs to respond by doing things like dedicating shelf space for locally-grown products.”

There is some significant movement in this area. Local Food Plus, an organization committed to getting local produce into institutional food buyers' contracts, announced today the inclusion of LFP certified products at Fiesta Farms, Toronto's largest independent supermarket. The City of Toronto is also considering a proposal to adopt a local food policy for at least 50% of the food it buys through city-operated daycares, nursing homes and other venues.

“Having local food in cafeterias, universities and supermarkets like Fiesta Farms helps keep money within our communities,” points out Mike Schreiner of Local Food Plus. “The poll results show that supporting local food initiatives is important to consumers and it's important to us.”

“Buying Greenbelt grown food also helps Toronto,” says Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “Local food travels dramatically less to get to our plates than imported food. This means much less pollution. By buying local, we help clean the air and cut down on greenhouse gases that cause global warming.”

The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation began its work in June 2005 as an independent, charitable foundation with a mandate to fund not-for-profit organizations in support of farming, the environment and rural communities located in Ontario's Greenbelt. To date, the Foundation has announced grants of $10 million.

Polls show over 90% public support to protect the Greenbelt. The poll was conducted by Environics Research Group between June 18 and July 3, 2007.

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For the poll backgounder, click here.

For poll questions and full results of the poll, click here.

Contacts: Jennifer Asselin, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, (416) 960-0001, email: jasselin -at- ourgreenbelt.ca.

Elbert van Donkersgoed, GTA Agricultural Action Plan, (416) 661-6600 ext. 5282, email: elbert -at- gtalocalfood.ca.

Mike Schreiner, Local Food Plus, (416) 699-6070, email: mike -at- localfoodplus.ca.

Franz Hartmann, Toronto Environmental Alliance, (416) 606-8881, email: franz -at- torontoenvironment.org.

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