Ann Cooper, head of nutrition for the Berkeley (California) Unified School District, believes in educating children to improve their health and their planet.
She’s transformed school lunches into organic, regionally sourced and nutritious meals, while staying within her budget.
Below, you can watch a video of her presentation at the 2007 EG Conference for tips on how to manage the transition to a green commercial kitchen.
The world and the pace of technological innovation are speeding up, but food is slowing down.
Consumers expect healthier food and more eco-friendly production in the food service industry, from school kitchens to gourmet restaurants and from shopping mall food courts to neighborhood bistros. This synthesis of local and organic sourcing, green kitchen practices and healthy meals characterize the “slow food movement,” that sees food as part of a lifestyle based on environmental sustainability and commitment to community. Appealing to this consumer trend depends on engaging in slow food practices and raising consumer awareness of how you are doing so. Both your food sourcing and equipment use and purchasing can improve your carbon footprint.
There are five key aspects to sourcing slow food, involving the type of food you purchase, the nature of your suppliers and your relationships with your suppliers.
For slow food advocates, sustainability consists of every aspect of food production, including land use, irrigation, fertilization, pest control and transportation.
Food should have organic certification. Because you will be using whole foods with minimal preservatives, high quality, energy efficient food storage becomes crucial to your business model.
When possible, food should be sourced locally, ideally from smaller producers rather than large agribusiness.
While many slow food advocates are vegetarian, even omnivores within the movement prefer cruelty-free food products, such as free-range chickens and eggs.
Relationships with suppliers should create community, and be non-exploitative, including fair trade and fair labor practices.
Restaurant Equipment and Food Production:
Slow food advocates often prefer vegan and vegetarian options. As well as being concerned about food ethics, they are health conscious, and often prefer minimally processed foods. Steaming, which is extremely energy efficient and preserves the color and nutrients of foods, is an ideal preparation method for this market segment. Combi and convection ovens also complement the energy efficiency and taste preferences of this group of consumers. A knowledgeable equipment supplier, such as Food Service Warehouse, with experience in green restaurant equipment is an essential partner in designing a green kitchen.
Public Relations Efforts Have to Follow
Customers can’t tell the carbon footprint of food just by looking at their plates. Slow food advocates are attracted to restaurants that provide information about their food and food production on menus, brochures, and websites. You’ll create a loyal and expanding customer base by making available information including:
Who are your suppliers? What sort of sustainable practices do they engage in? How are they part of the local community? Can your customers find their products at local markets? What is the positive social impact of your purchasing?
This health conscious market segment is interested in the nutritional details of the food you serve, and tends to be very knowledgeable about health and nutrition.
Your customers want to know how you are reducing you carbon footprint via purchasing policies and energy use. Discuss how the energy efficient devices and practices you use save energy. You can find many tips on greening commercial kitchens and statistics on energy use on the Food Service Warehouse website.
Slow food has grown from a niche hobby for bourgeoisie types into a reasonable lifestyle choice for more Americans.
As education about the state of our food continues to course through the nation, we can expect to see sweeping changes in the way food is grown, moved and conceptualized as a whole in America.