The Local Flavors farm-to-table series is putting locally grown food on lunch and dinner plates in restaurants across central Illinois. In 2015, the National Restaurant Association listed locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, and environmental sustainability as the top 3 food trends for the year respectively, the Local Flavors Farm-to-Table series, now in its 8th season, has been ahead of the trend. The series gives consumers an opportunity to dine out at their favorite restaurants while also supporting local businesses, sustainable farming, and locally grown products.
The Local Flavors series, a program of Illinois Stewardship Alliance and local partners, brings together restaurant owners and central Illinois farmers to provide monthly lunch and dinner events to the public. Chefs from participating restaurants create a special dish (or several) highlighting seasonal produce and proteins sourced directly from central Illinois farmers. These Local Flavors specials are available in addition to the restaurant’s regular menu for the day. Customers can stop by any participating restaurant on their scheduled date during their regular business hours to order the Local Flavors special.
The series is held in four cities across central Illinois: Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, and Peoria. The first Local Flavors event in Bloomington-Normal will begin on June 18th at Medici, and from there the series will rotate to a different restaurant every first and third Thursday of each month, June through October.
The event is designed to grow a market for Illinois’ small farms and specialty crop producers and to cultivate relationships between local farmers and chefs, as well as to raise awareness about how buying locally not only means getting produce at peak flavor and freshness, but also has a major impact on shaping our food systems at large. And with Illinois importing 95% of its food from outside of state borders according to the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Report, just a small shift in local food sales by consumers, restaurants, and retailers, would have great benefits to the Illinois economy.
“Buying locally is about supporting what you value,” says Molly Gleason, Illinois Stewardship Alliance Outreach Coordinator, “The Local Flavors series gives people a chance to come out and show their support for local farmers and local restaurants and show that they value their community and how their food is raised.”