Celebrating Local Farms at Gallaudet University
Now in its ninth year, Bon Appétit's Eat Local Challenge highlights fresh-picked food - and growth of the local food movement.
On Tuesday September 24 from 4:30 to 8 p.m., Bon Appétit Management Company at Gallaudet University and its other cafés around the country are showcasing their deep, years-long commitment to local food, by preparing regionally authentic meals made entirely from ingredients harvested within 150 miles of each kitchen.
For this year's Eat Local Challenge, Acting Executive Chef Mary Soto of Hanson Plaza Dining Hall is excited to highlight Washington's best with dishes like smoked pork roast and roasted beauregard wweet potatoes as well as Long Island cheese squash fritters that she will prepare with the bounty from local purveyors such as Even' Star Organic Farm, Legacy Manor Farm, Trickling Springs Creamery, Tuscorara Organic Growers Cooperative and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.
When Bon Appétit Management Company launched its first Eat Local Challenge in 2005, the idea of caring about "local food" was a novelty, not a national movement. Michael Pollan's seminal book The Omnivore's Dilemma was still a year away from publication, and the company was the only one in the food service industry providing local food in its cafés on a regular basis.
The idea behind the annual event was to encourage people to look beyond their supermarket and seek out the bounty of food growing all around them. Since then, not only has the word "locavore" entered common usage, but there are now 80% more farmers' markets around America, and the number of small U.S. farms has begun rising after years of decline.
Eat Local Challenge began as an outgrowth of Bon Appétit's Farm to Fork program, a companywide commitment to buying locally that it formalized in 1999. Chef Mary and other Bon Appétit chefs are required to purchase at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms and ranches within 150 miles. American Farmland Trust estimates that in general, of $10 spent on food, only $1.58 gets back to the farmers and ranchers who grew it: marketers, processors, wholesalers, and distributors take the rest. By buying directly from local farms, Bon Appétit has played a vital role in the local food movement over the last 14 years. Through the tens of millions of dollars per year it spends annually through the Farm to Fork program, the company has helped these small producers not only stay in business, but flourish.
"This is my eighth year of the Eat Local Challenge, and it never fails to be one of my favorite events we do," says Mary Soto. "I love giving some well-deserved attention to the people who grow our food, and making our guests aware of why and how they too can join the local food movement."
As part of this year's Eat Local Challenge, Bon Appétit at Gallaudet University will share tips on how to "go local." This will include sharing a list of five locally produced foods, like fruit and eggs, that are easy to find, as well as locally available substitutions for items that might be difficult, such as olive oil and sugar.
The company is also sponsoring a local food photography contest via social media: guests are encouraged to take a photo of their 100% local Bon Appétit meals on Eat Local Challenge Day, then Tweet or Instagram them with their location and the hashtag #eatlocalchallenge. The most artful effort nationwide will win a $200 gift certificate to a farm-to-table restaurant in their area and signed copies of new books from two food-movement heroes - Michael Pollan's Cooked and Marion Nestle's Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.
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About Bon Appétit
Bon Appétit Management Company (www.bamco.com) is an on-site restaurant company offering full food-service management to corporations, universities, and specialty venues. Based in Palo Alto, CA, Bon Appétit has more than 500 cafés in 32 states, including eBay, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Getty Center. All Bon Appétit food is cooked from scratch, including sauces, stocks, and soups. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs addressing local purchasing, the overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, the food and climate change connection, humanely raised meat and eggs, and farmworker welfare. It has received numerous awards for its work, from organizations including the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the James Beard Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Seafood Choices Alliance, and The Humane Society of the United States.