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Farm-To…What? 3 Farm-to-Fork Trends Shaping the Way We Eat

May 28, 2013

Living in Chicago for the past three years has made me somewhat of a #foodie (or what my friends like to call, a ‘food nerd.’) If you can’t find me at one of the city’s newest restaurants openings exploring unique menu concepts and exotic cuisines (and Chicago is in great supply), you may spot me sipping on a cappuccino at the local coffee shop, nose-deep in a newly released nutrition, culinary or restaurant trend report.

And upon finding me, if you were to ask me to share insights on the materials I’ve covered, there are four words that would inevitably come out of my mouth: Sustainability. Local-Sourcing. Environment. Farms.

As more and more Americans become conscious of the personal, local and global consequences of our food consumption, ideas centered on environmental degradation and food products, including ‘Farm-To’ concept, continually tops the consumer trends charts.

In fact, among the National Restaurant Association’s ‘What’s Hot in 2013’ Trends, the topic of environment and sustainable foods was featured in six out of the top 20 trends, including locally sourced meats, locally grown produce, environmental sustainability, hyper-local sourcing, sustainable seafood and farm/estate branded items.

There is a Farm-To Movement, growing like weeds (no pun intended) in this nation and new concepts are popping up daily. From the local farm to our forks, Nutrition Lately explores three ‘Farm-To’ trends that are shaping the way Americans eat.

FARM-TO-TABLE

Bloody MaryThe most historic of the farm-to-fork trends the restaurant Farm-to-Table concept. Farm-to-Table restaurants are changing the dining-out game. Why spend top-dollar at a Michelin-starred restaurant when you are guaranteed the freshest meats, seafood and vine-ripened produce at the local farm-to-table restaurant fraction of the price, which likely sources from the farm down the road? What’s more is the seasonality feature that is often found at these restaurants, often providing menus tailored toward seasonable.

This past weekend I had a chance to try out a new farm-to-table at a larger scale Food Dance (think Applebee’s with a farm-to charm). I went on a two-hour road trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan to scope it out and the local food was both delicious and fresh, from the sun-dried tomato quiche right up to my 9-Step Blood Mary.

[NL] Farm-To Fact:  Farm-to programs increase opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors and food manufacturers. Visit your local farmer’s market this summer to increase your Farm-to-Fork eating at home.

FARM-TO-HOTEL

An interesting off-shoot to the farm-to-table concept is farm-to-hotels. A recent NBC News article quoted Charles D. Dorn of Dorn Group, a hospitality consulting firm, explaining that “hotels’ embrace of the locally sourced trend is an evolution of hotels’ increasing focus on environmentally minded practices.”

The Hilton Orlando is one hotel that has embraced local sourcing on their dining menus as well as the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which started a food initiative across its brands that requires in part that chefs incorporate at least five local ingredients in their menus.

 [NL] Farm-To Fact: Decreasing the distance between producers and consumers can promote food security and also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on oil.

FARM-TO-SCHOOL

One of the most recent farm-to initiatives is the farm-to-school. The National Farm to School Network is one such example, with a vision to enhance the health of all school children’s, farms, the environment, economy and communities by building strong local and regional food systems. The objective is to include local products in school meals-breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks as well as educational tools and classroom snacks.

A similar off-shoot to this is the Farm to College program, which connects colleges and universities with producers in their area to produce local farm products for meals and special events on campus.

Both of these initiatives benefit our communities by strengthening knowledge and attitudes toward food, agriculture and the environment.

[NL] Farm-To Fact:  Increasing the awareness of farm-to initiatives, especially in school meals programs, can serves to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, thereby improving childhood nutrition, reducing hunger, and preventing obesity and obesity-related diseases.

 Elise Truman, MS, RD

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