local food sourcing
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.