Park, PENNSYLVANIA, posted January 27, 2005: Buying locally
grown food can mean fresher products and support for the local economy.
With that in mind, students in one class at Penn State spent last
fall gauging the interest of area restaurants in purchasing food
locally, their familiarity with an initiative known as "Buy
Fresh Buy Local," and their propensity to do just that.
ten requests to ease buying local
Restaurateur expressed interest in increasing their
purchases of locally grown products but expressed concern
with lack of selection possibly due to seasonality,
quantity or volume issues, higher prices, lack of reliability,
fewer delivery options, safety regulations, lack of
standards, lack of consistency and fewer payment options
as precieved disadvantages. When asked what would make
buying locally easier, responses included:
- a website
of local product availability,
- a newsletter,
- a weekly
good representative that is knowledgeable about local
products and availability,
- prompt delivery
- a local
foods consumer guide,
- price and
- a local
- fax access
with prices and products and
billing options such as a 10-15 day payment period
Students -- a mix of undergraduates and graduates -- in Nutrition/Science,
Technology & Society 497G: Community Food Security spent the
latter part of the Fall 2004 semester working on and conducting
a survey of restaurants in the Centre Region, gauging their interest
and involvement in buying locally produced food. A national initiative
guided by Food Routes of Mill Hall, Pa., and at the state level
by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA),
"Buy Fresh, Buy Local," strives to create a widely recognizable
brand name for identifying locally grown food and encouraging consumers
to support area producers.
"Basically, we hoped to gain a better understanding of where
the food served in these restaurants originated and what restaurant
owners, managers or chefs considered when purchasing," said
Dru Montri, a graduate student in horticulture. "We also were
looking to determine what those involved in the restaurant industry
believed were the advantages and disadvantages of buying locally
and what could be done to make the process easier for them. The
final component was to assess the industry's awareness and acceptance
of the Centre County 'Buy Fresh Buy Local' campaign."
The 10 students in the class surveyed a total of 24 area restaurants,
which ranged from 300 to 9000 patrons served per week, entrée
costs of two dollars to 32 dollars and a wide sampling of cuisines.
The class found that 13 of the establishments surveyed currently
purchase some local product, and six more occasionally do.
In the process, the class found that 15 of the eateries surveyed
were interested in taking part in "Buy Fresh, Buy Local,"
and nine of the establishments would be willing to pay extra for
locally grown food. The survey also identified ways in which locally
grown food could be made more easily available for restaurants.
Montri has worked with the "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" initiative
since last summer, and she noted that the findings of the class
are a good starting point in encouraging local food consumption
in Centre County.
"Our work as a class has concluded," Montri said. "Personally,
I will continue to promote the 'Buy Fresh, Buy Local' campaign in
Centre County. I am currently working with PASA on membership and
a Centre County Local Foods Guide. The survey was a great beginning.
From here, I'll work on following-up with those restaurants that
are interested and getting in touch with those we were unable to
The course is in its second year and is taught by Dorothy Blair,
assistant professor of nutrition, with students studying nutrition
in the College of Health and Human Development and horticulture
and agricultural sciences in the College of Agriculture.
Blair said the course examined alternative ways to bring food security
to communities, beyond the standard governmental and food bank giveaways.
Before surveying area restaurants to gauge interest and feasibility
in the "Buy Fresh, Buy Local," initiative, Blair had her
class take a close look at community food security programs in Pennsylvania
and around the country.
"There are hundreds of programs now happening in the U.S.
that fall under this theme," Blair said. "We visited Philadelphia
for two days in the early fall, looking at their innovative projects,
and also examine what is happening locally in Centre County."
The idea of community food security, Blair explained, incorporates
a number of available resources to provide products to community
members from local producers.
"Community food security usually focuses on promoting local
ag production and local consumption through community gardens, urban
agriculture, child through youth and adult food education, cooking
skills, and food entrepreneurship, ways to bring people cheaper
food that involve their efforts, food coops and local economic stimulation
through food projects," Blair said. "Philadelphia has
taken a lead role in this, as have many urban areas."
In State College, the class found a number of opportunities for
community food security, including a new 87-plot community garden
at Tudek Park, Community Supported Agriculture, farmers' markets,
and gardens at local schools which get students thinking about food
as something in which they can get involved, Blair said.
For area restaurants, the survey discovered that even if it meant
an increase in price, restaurant owners and managers would like
to acquire some of their food from local producers. Respondents
said among ways the process of buying local could be made easy would
be centralized information on product availability and prices, a
representative knowledgeable on local products and availability
and alternative billing options.
"We were able to identify a list of 10 ideas that would make
buying locally easier for restaurants," Montri said. "This
is the type of information we hope others will use to continue to
work for this cause."