Just how local is that? Program provides answers

Products get score card | Alberta grocery stores promote local food

A new project intended to shine a spotlight on local food has become a big success in grocery stores.

Meghan Dear was looking for ways to highlight local food in grocery stores. It began with a single store in Sherwood Park, Alta., eight months ago but by the beginning of January it had expanded to a 10-store pilot project with funding assistance from Alberta Agriculture.

Tags identifying local products are placed near price tags on local items in grocery stores. More than 800 items from 100 local companies are registered with Dear’s Localize Your Food program.

“There is a range of local food products in the province.

“Grocery stores were also looking for solutions,” Dear said.

Al Paquette, manager of the Sobeys store in Camrose, said customers have reacted positively to the program.

“There has been a really good response.”

Sobeys’ head office gives Paquette a list of approved products and Paquette decides which would sell in the Camrose store. Many of the items were already being sold in the store, but weren’t labelled as local.

Baba Jenny’s Ukrainian Foods products from Vermilion, Alta., was one of the products he brought in through the program.

“We’re totally impressed. The response has been unbelievable,” said Paquette of the frozen food.

He said local food promotion has been needed for some time, but it’s not always easy to organize or promote.

“It’s kind of neat. Sometimes you don’t really know where the food comes from. It’s amazing what products are in our own area.”

Dear rates how local a product is through a formula of production location, ownership and ingredient origin.

Baba Jenny’s products were rated a local nine out of 10. They received 4.5 out of 4.5 for place of production, a 3.5 out of 3.5 for place of ownership and a one out of two for source of ingredients because not all the ingredients were local.

Tega Tea received an eight out of 10 local rating. While its place of production and ownership are in Abbotsford, B.C., it gets zero out of two for source of ingredients from South Africa.

A point was added back because the tea is certified organic and has been labelled fair trade.

Dear said she wants to create a Super Local label for extremely local produce.

Garry Pulyk of Baba Jenny’s Ukrainian Food said the local food project has been a benefit to his business, but she wants to know the next step after the pilot project ends at the end of February.

Pulyk has also been amazed how many food products are produced in Alberta.

“Ever since we got involved, now I start to look on the website for produce and products I want to support,” he said.

Dear believes consumers, producers and grocery stores want to have a way to amalgamate and identify local products.

Her next step is moving beyond the pilot project and expanding beyond the initial 10 stores.

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