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Putting Local on the Menu: Tools and Strategies for Increasing the Utilization of Locally Raised Food in Restaurants and Food Service

SCALE, August 2014

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Summary :

The “local food movement” is now well established in many parts of the United States, as evidenced by the nearly five-fold increase in farmers markets over just the past two decades, the steady increase in Community Supported Agriculture, or “CSA” ventures, and the increasing availability of locally raised foods in more traditional shopping venues (USDA Agricultural Marketing Service). The nearly $7 billion in local food sales USDA estimated took place last year means more market opportunities for farmers, and wider availability of fresh produce and nutritious meat and eggs for consumers (USDA AMS).

In addition to farmers markets and other “direct-to-consumer” outlets, many restaurants, schools and colleges, hospitals and retail outlets are purchasing from local farmers, either directly or through some type of third-party aggregator such as a food hub. This trend is far stronger in some regions and communities than others, in part because the logistical challenges – ease of ordering, reliability of supply, convenient deliveries, etc – require a certain level of infrastructure and business development to resolve. However, even where the needed systems are in place one issue frequently remains: Price (Strohnbehn and Gregoire, 2003).

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