When it comes to food, 2015 is all about going local
Thursday, January 08, 2015
As we begin 2015, more and more businesses are proudly sporting "locally grown" signs and labels. From grocery stores and delis to hotels and restaurants, food businesses are buying and serving local greens and meats to their customers.
The trend is picking up quickly because not only is the produce fresher and cheaper, but it is also mutually beneficial for the overall local economy. Though meat and other nonvegetarian products have to go through more USDA inspections, food services around the country are setting up regulatory bodies to help them meet these checks and still feed local economies.
And it's not just for food that the farm-to-table movement has shown signs of growth, but for beverages as well. Experts are predicting that awareness and consumption of local craft beer will grow big in 2015.
We can see the potential of this movement right at the heart of our future generations. Schools in eight states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin) have agreed to participate in the USDA Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables. This program targets an increase in the purchase of locally grown fruits and vegetables in the state-assisted school meal program.
The federal project has been welcomed with open arms by farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food manufacturers and the communities at large, as it paves the way for a positive and sustainable future for the economy. Local produce will be fresher and therefore be more nutritious for students, making them a favorite with parents as well.
It's not just school students who are now all primed up for access to fresh local produce. Miami University in Ohio recently announced that their college students will have easy access to a variety of local products, from fresh honey and fruits to other daily essentials.
Miami University dining halls are relying heavily on local farmers markets and are prepared to up their dependency from the present 26 percent. With students themselves demanding local food, the university is not too far behind in making all kinds of local purchases, from greens and meats to even ice-creams and chocolates.
In a different twist to the same story, the University of Arkansas' System Division of Agriculture is set to enable more local produce distribution in the state. The plan will also pave the way for locals to enjoy a healthier diet without paying more for it. Communities participating in this program will receive technical and knowledge assistance so that they can integrate various local food systems into viable economic models and strengthen the local communities in the process.
In another recent move, more than 300 hubs across the country have joined hands to provide small local farms outlets to sell local produce to consumers. These hubs work as convenient alternatives to the weekly farmers market for restaurants and even college and school cafeterias as we have seen above.
The popularity and demand for food hubs is evident as upcoming programs like the University of Vermont's Food Hub Management Certificate Program, the first of its kind, is all set to give this niche industry more direction.
Along with supporting the neighbors and the local community, local food is also being heralded for being a healthier choice. The focus is on freshness, quality and lack of artificial preservatives, since the food does not need long-distance shipping.
The demand for local produce — food grown close to where it's sold — will be the foundation for sustainable food and energy practices in the future.
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