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Natural Awakenings Boston

Fresh, Natural and in Your Neighborhood : Eat Local Month to Feature the Best in Local Foods

Jul 31, 2017 09:50AM ● By Wendy Lewis

 

Every year, August brings warmer summer temperatures and fun outdoor events. This year, the month also promises a great opportunity to eat more healthfully while supporting local businesses.

Through grant funding from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN) has organized the first annual Massachusetts Eat Local Month. The campaign, running throughout this month, will feature a mouth-watering variety of activities each week, including a film screening, tours, a roundtable discussion and, of course, lots of opportunities to sample a wealth of local foods, products and services.

Eat Local Month, the brainchild of SBN, will benefit both consumers and businesses, says Maddie Phadke, the organization’s managing director. “Our goal with Eat Local Month is to help raise consumer awareness and knowledge about local foods and where they come from,” she says. “And there is also a greater opportunity for local food businesses to have the chance to connect with consumers, for restaurants to connect with local farms, and local producers to source local food. Overall, it benefits everyone.”

Eat Local Month will acknowledge the vital role that local restaurants play in Massachusetts’ regional economy and will provide rich opportunities for restaurant owners and managers to network, learn and brainstorm. Phadke says, “In planning Eat Local Month, we saw the challenges restaurant owners and managers face in trying to source locally and do the right thingand that we could create an opportunity to get everyone talking about their ideas and help overcome those challenges.”

Greater collaboration between local businesses can help decrease the number of “food miles” between suppliers, restaurants and consumers, stimulate the local economy, and build pride in local foods and restaurants. Year-round, SBN helps connect restaurants and consumers with affordable, sustainable and fresh local food. SBN produces a comprehensive Local Wholesale Sourcing Guide and partners with Massachusetts Buy Local groups and Local First organizations to support business-to-business relationships.

Eat Local Month will kick off with a free roundtable discussion, Sourcing Locally and the Local Food Movement, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., August 1, at the SBN boardroom in Cambridge. Restaurant owners, chefs, food suppliers and other food industry professionals are invited to network, discuss their challenges and successes around local sourcing, and brainstorm ways to support the local food movement.

In its second week, Eat Local Month will focus on sustainable seafood in participating restaurants and will feature a tour of Red’s Best, a Boston-based seafood wholesaler that promotes community-based, small-boat fishing. Representatives from SBN and Red’s Best will discuss their initiatives to support fishermen and the local seafood industry, and the many different types of New England seafood. The tour, taking place from 8:30 to 10 a.m., August 7, is free for SBN members and $10 for non-members.

During the final week of the campaign, several restaurants will offer special Eat Local menus, featuring dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Diners can sample delicious dishes and learn about the ingredients’ origins, farms and suppliers.

Eat Local Month will conclude with a closing celebration from 6 to 8 p.m., August 29, at The KITCHEN at Boston Public Market. The celebration will feature a screening of Forgotten Farms, a documentary about the challenges of New England dairy farmers and their role in the local food movement. Light refreshments and snacks will be served.

More Eat Local Month events are in the works. To find the latest information, participating businesses and social media updates, visit SBNMass.org/EatLocalMonth. Restaurants interested in participating can also follow the link on the page to apply online.

Love local food? The healthy fun continues after Eat Local Month concludes. On September 17, SBN will present the 2017 Boston Local Food Festival, a free, outdoor event showcasing farmers, local restaurants, food trucks, specialty food producers and organizations focusing on healthy food and fitness from New England. The festival will come alive with demos, a seafood throwdown competition, music and performances, a family fun zone and more. Visit BostonLocal FoodFestival.com for more information.

The Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN) is located at 99 Bishop Allen Dr., #100, Cambridge. For more information, visit SBNMass.org.

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