Local Food on a Large Scale

Upcoming Farm to Food Services workshops feature local innovators and success stories

The local food movement is booming in Virginia, with record-breaking sales at farmers markets and more local products available at grocery stores and restaurants. But what if you’re not just trying to feed your family? What if you have hundreds, or thousands, of people to feed every day?

A series of upcoming Farm to Food Service workshops, held in Charlottesville and Warrenton, will address the challenges that institutions such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes or corporate cafeterias face in providing fresh, healthy, local foods for their employees or clients.  The workshops will feature case studies of successful initiatives to increase local food offerings among private institutions.

The two-part workshop series will be held in Charlottesville on February 24 and March 26, and in Warrenton on February 28 and March 27, from 9:00 until 3:00 each day. The workshops are sponsored by The Piedmont Environmental Council (which runs the local Buy Fresh Buy Local program) and The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (which runs the Virginia Grown program).

The workshops will offer practical “how-to” guidance for clients, caregivers, kitchen workers, food service professionals, or anyone who wants to see more local food offerings at the institutions in their lives.

At the workshops, speakers from various points along the food supply chain will share their expertise. Speakers represent the award-winning Martinsburg VA Medical Center,  the nationally recognized DC Central Kitchen, the innovative Jefferson Board for Aging,  INOVA Hospital, and the Charlottesville Local Food Hub.  There will be ample discussion and exchange of ideas.

Sue Ellen Johnson, Director of Agriculture and Rural Economy Programs for the Piedmont Environmental Council, says, “Purchasing food grown on local farms is a delicious way to make a difference—contributing to a healthy, secure local food system and to vibrant rural communities. For institutions, there are also practical, immediate benefits that include more satisfied workers or clientele and less food waste.”

Increased local food offerings at institutions can make a significant contribution to the local economy. For example, Food Routes, the national sponsor of Buy Fresh Buy Local , reported that, in Iowa, when 23 institutional buyers doubled their local food purchases, they spent $465,000 on locally sourced products—money that otherwise would have most likely left the community.

The workshops are free. Lunch costs $10. More information and registration is available online at the Piedmont Environmental Council website: www.pecva.org/Events .