MONCTON (GNB) – The government is investing to help put local food on the plates of New Brunswick’s students.

A total of $273,000 has been allocated for a co-operative that is being established under the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries’ Local Food and Beverages Strategy. Co-operation Agri-food NB is made up of non-profit organizations representing farmers and food service providers in public institutions. Its primary objective is to have more local food served in public institutions, beginning with school cafeterias.

“The promotion of local food and beverages has been identified as a key opportunity in the New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s consumers, and they will lead the progression to a local food culture in New Brunswick.”

The Local Food and Beverages Strategy, which was launched last fall, includes a three-pronged approach to local food promotion: increased awareness of local food, increased availability of local food, and improved support for local producers. The co-operative’s work will address all three components.

“The local food co-operative will address many of the logistical issues, like storage, transportation and economies of scale, that have prevented school cafeterias from serving local food in a cost-effective way,” said Doucet.

Much of New Brunswick’s produce comes into season during the summer months when school is not in session. This seed funding will help the co-operative buy equipment to facilitate the storage, preservation and distribution of local food so it can be served throughout the school year.

“With combined purchasing power, increased storage capacity and the right equipment to preserve local produce, the co-operative can work towards the government’s goal of having at least 30 per cent of the food served in school cafeterias come from local sources,” said Marc Allain, founding member of Co-operation Agri-food NB.