Small farms’ longtime champion offers 100% local meals nationwide — and celebrates growth of locavore movement
Palo Alto, Calif. (September 24, 2013) – Today, Bon Appétit Management Company’s 500-plus cafés are showcasing its years-long commitment to local food, by preparing regionally authentic meals made entirely from ingredients harvested within 150 miles of each kitchen. And at many locations, guests will get to mingle with the farmers, ranchers, and food artisans whose food helped make each café’s 100% local meal a reality.
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. 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.
Every year, Bon Appétit deepens its commitment to local food. Here are a few facts:
- The number of Farm to Fork vendors has increased from an estimated 400 in 2005 to 1,300 in 2013.
- Since its launch in 2011, the company’s Fish to Fork program, designed to increase the amount of local fish being used in its cafés, has signed on 40 local fishermen and fish farmers.
- At last year’s variation, the Eat Local (Fish) Challenge – in which chefs were challenged to plan a meal around a locally sourced or caught fish – 56 different species of seafood were served.
- In 2005, there were less than 10 farms located on the university and corporate campuses where Bon Appétit operates. Bon Appétit has helped start and/or support the groundbreaking of more than two dozen more hyperlocal campus farms and gardens.
“When we started our Farm to Fork program, it was about our chefs having access to the best flavors. It ended up starting us on a path toward becoming more sustainable,” said Fedele Bauccio, CEO and cofounder of Bon Appétit Management Company. “I fully believe we couldn’t do what we do without these incredible farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Our chefs love the Eat Local Challenge because it inspires them to cook even more creatively — and because they get to introduce their heroes to our guests.”
As part of this year’s Eat Local Challenge, Bon Appétit 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 will win 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 — along with a gift certificate to a farm-to-table restaurant in their area.
About Bon Appétit Management Company
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.