By Aleya Harris
What if there was a way your food service could boost the local economy, provide your clients with high-quality food that appeals to modern tastes, without adding costs and complications? All of this becomes possible when you explore the potential of sourcing locally for your food service operation.
Modern consumers are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to their dining choices. In particular, consumers are realizing the palatable benefits of locally produced meals. The problem is that it has historically been difficult to connect farmers with local distributors and food service providers; however, that is changing.
Here’s the lowdown on navigating the “eat local” movement, simplified for your food service business, and how it can benefit not just you and your clients, but the community.
Meet Increased Demand
As people become more health and environmentally conscious, they tend to seek out produce with a reduced carbon footprint. Increased demand for locally sourced food is a natural outgrowth of this mindset.
Locally sourced food has several valuable benefits. It’s fresher than supermarket or processed foods, which means it has more nutrients and tastes better, without the need for certain preservatives. Eating local also puts less impact on the environment and preserves local farmland. Plus, local farmers tend to be smaller scale and are more likely to have a commitment to humane animal treatment.
By meeting the increased demand for local produce, you’re polishing your company’s image and plating food that your diners will feel good about eating. Now, where do you source it from?
Farmers Markets & Local Farmers
You’re probably familiar with Farmer’s Markets. These are a great place to source food, as well as make invaluable connections with local farmers. Many Farmer’s Markets are open to negotiating partnerships to supply produce in bulk to businesses. Alternatively, you can work out deals directly with the farmers themselves.
A great way to increase your access to a greater variety of foods is through a company like Five Acre Farms. Their mission is to deliver local milk, eggs, and apples to area grocery stores, restaurants, and other food service providers. They find and vet the farmers, work out the payments, and handle the deliveries.
CSA & RSA
You can also find locally sourced foods and save money by partnering with your local CSA or RSA to supply your business.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. These organizations have provided urban centers with crates of fresh and local food for years. Customers receive a certain amount of groceries each week through their CSA, and cash flow is provided for farmers through prepayment via subscriptions.
RSA stands for Restaurant Supply Agriculture. These organizations operate on a similar premise to CSA. Through an RSA, farmers and restaurants work together to ensure the restaurant or food service operator gets the locally sourced food they require for their menu.
Farm to Table with Ease
The “farm to table” movement is more than a fad. People recognize that local food is fresher than food that’s been trucked in hundreds of miles. It’s also more environmentally friendly, which means it could have greater sustainability for the planet. It can even be cost-effective. With a little creativity, food service professionals can break out of the paradigm and easily connect with providers of locally sourced foods to the benefit of all.