More B.C. food will be served at Fraser Health hospitals with the launch of the Feed BC program in the region.
Already 15 to 25 per cent of food used in B.C. hospitals, is locally produced, but that number is expected to grow as Feed BC rolls out to B.C. health authorities.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said Wednesday that following a pilot program last year in Pentiction involving universities, food distributors and producers, Feed BC was set out to encourage more local food in B.C. hospitals.
Health authorities will be making pro-active choices to buy B.C. products “and they will be tracking those,” Popham said.
“Everybody across the province is excited about this initiative,” she said. Such a program could also prompt businesses to create tailor-made products for the health-care system.
Feed BC is a voluntary program, Popham acknowledged, but there’s a lot of enthusiasm to use local food.
“We can’t enforce it by law, they (health authorities) have to do it. So we just try and work … how do we make it easier for you to make the choice.
“And because they are so enthusiastic themselves, as soon as we remove the barriers, it seems to be an automatic choice they’re making,” Popham added.
Through Feed BC, the ministry is providing information and guidance, food-safety training, new technology and business advice to help local growers and food processors sell their food to B.C. hospitals.
So far, more than 200 B.C. food and agriculture businesses have taken part in the training offered, building their capacity to sell to public facilities.
During the pilot project in Penticton, hospitals there switched from imported to B.C. produced eggs.
Fraser Health already uses B.C. products, they’ll just be using more.
“It’s kind of perfect timing for something like this because there is consumer demand. Families feel better when they think about their loved ones eating B.C. food,” Popham said.
But it’s important to track the increased consumption, she added.
Using local food helps provide stability to local growers, added Bob D’Eith, MP for Maple Ridge-Mission, during a lunch at Baillie House at Ridge Meadows Hospital, featuring all local food. On the menu was chunky Moroccan soup, made in the hospital kitchen, rotini and meat sauce also made in the kitchen, along with B.C. lettuce and blueberry cake.
“B.C. food is better. Our farming practices, we know what they are,” said D’Eith.
Providing more B.C. food to patients and residents in the Fraser Health system brings the community together, said Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare in a news release.
Interior Health first adopted the Feed BC program in 2019 and received help to increase purchase of local food.
Health authorities are already using B.C. fruit, vegetables and local baked goods.