local food sourcing
Institutional food systems are typically a tough nut for food activists to crack, relying as they do on economies of scale and mass logistics. But the growing movement toward real, sustainable eating has a natural ally in hungry, well-informed college students – and ever since 2008, the Real Food Challenge organization has helped them speak with one voice for change.
The challenge “leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
To that end, the Real Food Generation organization – founded by Ghanian-born Harvard Kennedy School grad Anim Steel – provides coordination, support and tools to campus organizations that are working toward change.
Massachusetts Teenager Hooked on Local Ag After Completing ‘30 Day Challenge’ to Survive on Local Farm’s ProduceDecember 3, 2015 | Abbie Stutzer
Sixteen-year-old Noah Kopf recently embarked on a challenge to eat only foods he produced or grew on his own for 30 days. The name of the challenge was appropriately called “Homegrown 30: A Month of Backyard Eating.” Kopf was successful – and while he says he found the challenge trying at times, he learned a lot during his journey.
Kopf first became interested in local agriculture about five years ago. “My family got a CSA at a local community farm and part of the requirement for the CSA is a certain amount of working volunteer hours,” he says. “My mom would bring me over after middle school and I helped weed the beds and pick stuff. I really enjoyed the work. I thought it was really cool that people were growing so much food right around us.”
The rich Cajun and Creole food tradition of southern Louisiana’s French-speaking region of Acadiana is the target of preservation efforts by a new local food alliance.
Until recently, efforts to bolster local foods in the Acadiana region were disparate and disjointed, according to Christopher Adams, executive director of the Cultural Research Institute of Acadiana. The Acadiana Food Alliance is trying to change that.
“There’s been a fair amount of movement in the area for local food, including an upsurge in farmers’ markets and lots of restaurants featuring local food on menus,” says Adams. “These have been independent and scattered efforts, with lots of individual potentials. Our hope is to bring together an effective collaboration.”
The journey toward the new food alliance began in February 2014 when about 30 interested people began meeting regularly. The group applied for technical assistance from the U.S. EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program, and were one of 26 recipients (out of 300 applicants) nationwide. The Local Foods, Local Places program seeks to enhance economic opportunities for locally based farmers and businesses by improving access to healthy local food and supporting food hubs, farmers’ markets, and community gardens and kitchens.
A survey out of the University on New Hampshire has uncovered a few surprising bits of information about the value consumers place on local produce.
The survey questioned 200 people and was conducted by John Halstead, professor of environmental and resource economics, and university students.
“There’s a lot of momentum toward producing more of our food locally and a lot of statements being made about how we should buy X percent of our food locally, and how if we just did this we’d produce all these jobs,” Halstead says. “I felt like there hasn’t been a lot of real economic research done that talks about why, for example, don’t we do this now if it’s such a great idea? Why is nobody doing it, and if it is such a great idea, what’s keeping it from taking hold?”
A popular new restaurant proclaims that it serves only local food and drink. But how do its customers know if the restaurant’s food is truly local? A new website looks to answer this question.
Local Local, founded by Reed Shelger in 2014, provides an online directory of restaurants and other food retailers that procure and sell local foods.
Shelger, who worked as a consultant in the commercial food industry after earning an undergraduate degree in managerial economics from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in business administration from Rice University, saw firsthand how grocery stores and restaurants “local-wash.” “Local-washing” is defined as exaggerating or fabricating the extent to which food comes from local sources.
Tender Greens, a Southern California-based restaurant chain committed to serving up high-quality local foods, is increasingly relying on hydroponics and other forms of indoor growing methods to supply its restaurants.
As the company continues to grow (it currently has multiple locations in several major metropolitan areas in California), co-founder Erik Oberholtzer sees numerous advantages to procuring food from hydroponic farms.
One benefit, according to Oberholtzer, is meeting increased demand for locally-grown plants that don’t travel well, such as herbs and lettuces. Other advantages include saving money by requiring less water and energy, reduced crop loss, better pest control, and higher plant quality.
A food hub here, a farmers’ market there, and CSA’s both here and there—what is the best way to find local foods? In Maine, this question is being addressed by The Maine Food Atlas.
Created by the Maine Network of Community Food Councils, The Maine Food Atlas is designed to map local food assets throughout the state to enhance food security and improve food quality throughout the state.
The Maine Food Atlas is an interactive website that lists local food assets in the following categories: food production, processing and manufacturing, distribution and storage, local food outlets, food access and nutrition, and education and support.
“We’re trying to rebuild community food systems, with less reliance on industrial agriculture and imported foods,” says Ken Morse, coordinator of Maine Network of Community Food Councils.
On August 31, the University of Maine (UMaine) System released a formal request for proposals (RFP) designed to significantly increase sourcing of locally grown foods across its six campuses.
A contract between UMaine and corporate food vendor Aramark will conclude on June 30, 2016, ending a 10-year relationship. The move comes after a coalition of activist groups had lobbied the UMaine system to source more of its food locally.
The Maine Food for the UMaine System project is a coalition of 20 organizations, 170 farmers and more than 1,500 students, faculty and staff within the UMaine system. It’s spearheaded by Farm to Institution New England, Maine Farmland Trust, Real Food Challenge and Environment Maine.