In the era of food selfies and Instagram meal posts, the Ontario government spent more than $20,000 on photographing food.
I came across the expenditure in a Freedom of Information document from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, showing two contracts to Toronto based food photography company Champion Photography.
In June of 2015, $14,746.50 was spent on “Recipe Photography for Recipe Releases - 12 Recipes over 3 days.”
Less than eight months later, $5,819.50 was spent “To Photograph four Foodland Ontario Recipes featuring Ontario Rabbit, Venison, Pickerel and Rainbow trout.”
That works out to about $5,000 a day for the sessions—or more than $1,200 for each individual dish.
The Foodland Ontario program aims to promote Ontario ingredients — from produce to dairy to meat — to Ontario consumers, which may have served a purpose years ago, but is now duplicating far more successful “buy local” efforts by producers and retailers.
I looked up some of the recipes that Foodland Ontario promotes, and while I’m sure they’re delicious, the only thing expressly unique about them is that they’ve put the word “Ontario” before most of the ingredients.
A ministry spokesperson told me that the costs included “photography and photography costs including studio rental, food preparation, food styling, prop styling, and miscellaneous expenses (couriers, etc.) for a series of recipes to be used as part of Foodland’s marketing activities.”
She said that the photos have been used in marketing materials such as media releases, newsletters, online and on recipe cards.
It still left a bad taste in my mouth.