Nothing is more important to a restaurant or its customers than the food it serves.
This is also important from an environmental perspective. Just think of the green house gas emissions released into the environment every day as the result of shipping food over vast distances to reach its end users. In fact, the Green Meetings Industry Council reports that the average meal travels almost 1500 miles before it reaches your plate!
Obviously, living on an island province with our climate makes it necessary to import food. However, where opportunities exist, every effort should be made to purchase local and sustainable food. In addition to being good for the environment, it also means fresher and better food for your customers.
What is Sustainable Food?
Food First NL defines sustainable food as being derived from a system that focuses on environmental health, economic vitality, human health and social equity. http://www.foodfirstnl.ca/
Essentially, food production should not compromise the health and quality of the land, air or water. It should ensure that food producers are fairly paid with a decent living and that food is economically priced and with fair availability to all.
Local and Seasonal Food
Local and seasonal food is essential to eating sustainably. Making use of what we produce ourselves throughout the year is better for the planet than importing out of season goods from far away markets. And don’t forget the importance of preserving goods – a longstanding part of our culture and a great cost saving measure! The province has a number of resources that have embraced a sustainable food mindset. Some of these are listed below.
Local Product Resources
- ACORN NL
- Newfoundland and Labrador Farm Guide
- Root Cellars Rock Local Food Links
Fair Trade Products
Often times you require products that simply are unavailable locally. Tea, coffee, chocolate and bananas are all excellent examples. In these cases, consider purchasing fair trade products. Fair trade products are those where the growers and producers are paid a fair wage for their goods making it possible for them to earn a decent living. http://www.fairtrade.ca/
The Relevance of Fair Trade (using cocoa as an example)
According to Fair Trade Canada, the production and trading conditions in the cocoa market make it difficult for producers to earn a living. Farmers are often paid only a fraction of the actual value of their crop and as a result cannot cover the cost of production. Being unable to make a living led to an increase in child labour, and even slave labour, in the cocoa trade. In 2001, the International Labour Organization reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast – where most of the world’s cocoa comes from.
Sustainable Seafood Choices
Sustainable seafood has been gaining considerable awareness by both the environmental community and everyday customers as it is widely known that some fish stocks are seriously at risk or endangered.
To help you better understand what species are acceptable to serve and those that you should avoid, please check out the following resources:
- Marine Stewardship Council
- Ocean Wise
- Star Chefs.com – Magazine for culinary Insiders “Loving Our Seafood to Death”
Building Local Vendor Relationships
It’s important to build relationships with local vendors who can help you meet your sustainable food mandate. Consider local bakeries, breweries and wineries. Working collaboratively with local vendors is not only good for the environment – it also helps to grow the local sustainable food network and green economy.
Sharing Your Sustainable Food Commitment
Customers are increasingly environmentally savvy and want to know where their food comes from.Highlight these products and vendor relationships on your menu and reinforce a farm to fork concept. Take credit for your great work and use it to build your brand profile.