Thursday, July 25

More Restaurant Owners Are Purchasing Foods Locally, According to New Research

A growing number of restaurants and food service companies are making a commitment to offer consumers locally grown food items. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is gathering more data on locally sourced food than ever before, and as the 2014 Locavore Index shows the number of farmers’ markets, CSAs [Community Supported Agriculture], and food hubs are increasing,” Vermont’s Bennington Banner reported Monday. Farm-to-school programs and chefs favoring and purchasing local foods are more popular than ever.

JJ Gonson, chef and owner of catering company Cuisine en Locale, purchases all fruits, vegetables, food items, and ingredients locally — from Maine — whenever possible. When Gonson’s in a bind, she’ll order foods from the New England region. She will not prepare any menu selections using items imported from far distances. “We make no exceptions,” Gonson tells The Boston Globe.

Business owners admit that there are other advantages — ones that motivate them far more than meeting consumer demand for local foods. Local farmers and other nearby producers respond to purchasers’ concerns much faster; quick response times motivate business owners to maintain an ongoing professional relationship with local farmers.

Restaurant management was also more likely to buy foods locally if they had adequate training in place. Adequate training programs encourage employees to discuss locally grown foods with customers and promote the benefits.
IBM predicts that restaurant owners and locals alike will easily get carried away by local buying trends. In fact, the firm predicts that local shopping will overtake online shopping within the next five years. New technology and improved software integration will make the shift increasingly practical.

The initiative is not perfect, experts warn. One of the problems, The Bennington Banner continues, is the the somewhat unclear definition of locally grown. “Right now ‘local’ does not have a set standard, and everyone has a different value for it. People make an effort to buy local because it has ecological advantages, or because of food safety, or because it supports the local economy. It has a different meaning for each audience,” food administrator Abbey Willard explains to the Vermont newspaper.

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