The term “localvore” has been popping up in the culinary scene more and more in recent years. But what does it mean? A localvore refers to someone who chooses to only eat food that’s grown and made locally.
Another term that you’ve probably heard before is “farm-to-table.” This refers to when food served at restaurants, cafeterias, or food service facilities is from local food producers. Farm-to-table meals put money back into your local economy and have less of an environmental footprint because the food doesn’t have to travel as far to get to the dinner plate. Plus, in-season, fresh foods usually taste better, which means your residents will eat more of it. (According to the CDC, Only 1 in 10 US adults eat the recommended amount of fruits or vegetables each day!).
Farm-to-table has made its way into the mainstream dining scene and isn’t just for those trendy restaurants anymore. It’s not difficult to implement a local food program at your facility to provide fresher meals to your residents. Here are four of our favorite ways to bring the farm-to-table, localvore lifestyle to your facility.
1. Shop the farmers market like a pro.
Farmers markets happen in cities all over the country. If there’s one near your facility, it’s a great place to get local ingredients straight from the people who produce them. Show up early to avoid crowds and you’ll have your pick of the freshest produce. And if your town has multiple markets, don’t be afraid to go to all of them. Different vendors show up at each one, so you’ll have a bigger variety to choose from.
Before you head to the market, do some research about what’s in season where you live. This way, you’ll know what to expect. You don’t want to go to the market in January and expect to find a bunch of fresh, tasty heirloom tomatoes only to be disappointed and have to change your meal plan.
But also leave room on your list for items that might surprise you. Maybe you weren’t considering using peaches in a meal this week, but if they look and taste great at the market, be spontaneous and grab a few. And don’t just limit yourself to fruits and veggies. Many farmers markets have vendors that sell meats and fish as well.
If you see something you might want to buy, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample. And lastly, don’t forget cash or reusable bags. While some vendors might accept credit cards or offer bags, some don’t so you’ll want to be prepared.
2. Meet your local producers.
This can go hand-in-hand with regularly going to the farmers market. While you’re at the market, chat up the merchants to learn more about what they do and how they do it.
Building relationships with them can’t hurt. Let’s say you need a large number of cucumbers for the week. If you have a relationship with a merchant, you may be able to work with them to see if they can bring a large order to the farmers market for you or just straight to your facility (some vendors even offer bulk order discounts!). They might even be able to give you insider scoop into what they’re bringing to the market in the future!
We also recommend following your favorite vendors on social media. They may post about which days they’re going to be at the market or about what items they’ll have in stock so you can better plan your visit
3. Bring the farmers and producers to you.
Yes, you can bring the farm food to your table, but you can also bring the local farmers and producers to your facility to educate residents about the importance of eating local, fresh food. You could have farmers come in and talk about what they do and how they produce food for the community. They could also do a live cooking demo with your chefs to educate residents about how to use healthy ingredients for when they leave your facility.
Another way to prepare residents for healthy living when they leave is to teach them how to shop farmers markets. Consider having multiple vendors come on the same day and set up a mini-market outside. Then you can introduce your residents, tell them about seasonal fruits and veggies, and show them how to shop a farmers market (feel free to use some of the tips we gave you above!).
4. Grow your own food.
Having a garden at your facility has multiple benefits. It can be a fun, outdoor activity for residents to take part in to stay active. It also provides a socialization opportunity. Besides staying active (tending to a garden is hard work!), gardening has other health benefits as well. One study found that daily gardening lowered the risk of dementia in seniors by 36%. But it can also benefit your kitchen. By having a place where you grow things like herbs, fruits, or vegetables, you have less of an environmental impact, save money, and always have fresh, tasty food on hand.
How we can help
Implementing a farm-to-table program to your community can help you contribute to your local economy while providing residents with fresher foods. If you need help bringing the farm to your dining room tables, we can help you create a program that works. Culinary Services Group can help you create menus that incorporate local foods. We also offer a meal delivery program where the meals are made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
To learn more about how we can help you implement a farm-to-table program at your facility, contact us here.