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Fact sheet

Ask for local

Published on 

Solution - Exigez local

Would you like to see more local products on your grocer’s shelves but don’t know what you can do about it? Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find homegrown fruits and vegetables. Here’s a practical guide to help you demand more local foods from your grocer.

1. Understand why you should eat local food

Before demanding local products from your grocer, it’s important to be well informed and to know your arguments. Buying local has many social, economic and environmental benefits. Among other things, it encourages the local economy, creates jobs, preserves Quebec’s agricultural heritage and contributes to food sovereignty.

2. Know how to recognize local fruits and vegetables

Identify the source of fruits and vegetables 

It’s not always easy to identify the origin of our foods when shopping at the grocery store. But here are some in-store tools that can help you find out where your favourite foods were grown.

  • Aliments du QuébecLabelling for Quebec: Aliments du Québec is a certification program founded by the members of the Quebec agri-food industry. This logo can often be found on product packaging or price signs.
  • Regional logos: Several regions of Quebec have developed their own campaigns and logos promoting their local products. Look for them in your region! Examples: Gaspésie Gourmande, Goûtez Lanaudière, Croquez l’Outaouais, Le bon goût frais des Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
  • Food stickers: In the absence of origin labels, fruits and vegetables sold by weight sometimes (though it’s not mandatory) have a small sticker with 4 or 5 numbers. This is the PLU (Price Look-Up) code, which is used to identify the produce at the cash. The country of origin is often indicated on this sticker, so keep an eye out for it!

Know the harvesting calendar

Identifying local products is easier if you follow the natural rhythm of the seasons and know which fruits and vegetables are harvested when. For example, if you know that strawberries make their appearance in June and that corn only ripens in July, you can anticipate the arrival of locally grown fruits and vegetables on store shelves and adapt your weekly meal plans accordingly.

3. Know the law

If there is no indication of a product’s origin, the survey Manger chez soi, pourquoi? showed that one out of two Canadians look for a substitute or ask a store employee about its origin.

However, few people are aware of the fact that the identification of the origin of fruits and vegetables is required by law in Quebec. According to the Regulation respecting the indication of the origin of fresh fruits and vegetables (1) of the Food Products Act, “the following information must appear very plainly above the place where such products are offered for sale: (…)

  • the name of the country of origin or, in the case of a Canadian product, the word “Canada”, or the name of the province of origin in the case of products from outside Québec;
  • the expression “Product of Québec” in the case of fruits and vegetables produced in Québec;”

Make sure your grocery store complies with these regulations!

4. Talk to your grocer

Once you have all the necessary information, there are several effective ways of taking action. As a general rule, it’s best to contact the store manager directly (either in person or by phone) rather than talking to grocery store clerks, as they are usually temporary employees and don’t have the power to bring about changes.

  • Point out omissions or errors in labelling to the manager of your grocery store. By explaining that Quebec law requires origin labelling, he or she will have to make the necessary corrections.
  • Demand more locally grown fruits and vegetables year round! We should be able to find a large variety of vegetables on grocers’ shelves in winter, thanks to their ability to keep for a long time (ex.: potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas, celeriac, cabbage, etc.). You can use our sample letter (in French) for inspiration to write to your grocery store manager.
  • Grocers care about their customers’ satisfaction and are willing to listen to your needs. Don’t hesitate to fill out satisfaction surveys… and be demanding!
  • Use social media to voice your opinions. Some grocery store outlets even have their own Facebook page. And don’t forget to give credit where credit is due. Your grocer will appreciate your positive comments: “Thanks for offering Quebec blueberries. My kids love them!” Some stores already have local procurement objectives, so feel free to encourage them!
  • For an even greater impact, you can also contact your grocery store chain’s customer service department directly (Metro, IGA, Provigo, etc.). The vast majority (approximately 90%) of buying under these banners is centralized and the produce is then distributed to each outlet. You can easily find their contact information on their website.
5. Encourage your friends and family to eat local

The more people demand local foods, the more they will be available and visible in stores! Tell your friends and family about the steps and initiatives you’ve taken or share them on Équiterre’s Facebook page and let us know which ones were successful! You could inspire thousands of people to take action!

Show your pride in our locally grown foods by including them when preparing meals for friends or family and share your favourite recipes and tips for cooking with seasonal, homegrown foods!

6. Go one step further

If you’re feeling particularly bold or dedicated, why not take things a step further?!

Demand local in every aisle

In addition to asking your grocer for local fruits and vegetables, you can also ask for other local products, such as meat, dairy products, grains, etc. These logos will help you spot locally produced or prepared foods more easily:

Aliments préparés au Québec

Eat organic and local

Why not take the opportunity to try the organic version of your favourite local foods? The popularity of organic products (in French) has grown steadily over the last few years and it’s now easier to find them in grocery stores and supermarkets. Surprise your taste buds by adding these products to your shopping cart!

Diversify your local food sources

You can also try alternative ways of buying your food by opting for more direct contact with local farmers. Purchasing from local farmer’s markets, virtual markets or the Family Farmers Network is a great way to access delicious, freshly picked produce while increasing your consumption of local food!

Discover inspiring initiatives close to home

Explore Montreal’s rich offering of local food projects thanks to the web documentary Épluche ta ville!

(1) Quebec (1981). Regulation respecting fresh fruit and vegetables, Quebec, Quebec Official Publisher, R.R.Q., c. P-29, r. 3, s. 22.