Many Iowa City Restaurants Discover the Benefits of Serving Locally Grown Food

Eating locally grown food has many benefits on your health, your food quality, your community and on the environment. Many Iowa City food establishments are choosing use locally grown food from family farms, food co-ops and farmer’s markets for these reasons.

Restaurants see using locally grown food as an effort to support farmers and growers in the area, an opportunity to achieve the freshest and most flavorful taste, a way to reduce their carbon footprint and a chance to create a sense of community through meals.

Many local Iowa City restaurants are choosing to take this approach when purchasing the produce that they serve at their businesses. Local restaurants that have taken this approach include Devotay, The Red Avocado, Atlas, Chef’s Table, Givanni’s, Leaf Kitchen, Montley Cow Café, Oasis Falafel, One Twenty Six, Hearth, Share, and The Wedge Pizzeria.

Buying locally supports the area’s farmers and growers and strengthens the community.  According to the Johnson County Local Food Alliance (JCLFA), supporting local businesses stimulates the social and economic.  When you purchase products locally, you keep money and other resources close to home.  Buying food from your local farmers essentially helps build your community.  Supporting small scale producers also helps them to receive fair working conditions and pay for their employees and allows them to keep producing foods in a clean, safe way.

According to Blooming Foods, corporate agribusiness is increasing, causing independent farmers to earn lower incomes every year. Large corporations do not contribute financially to their communities as much as small scale farm.

In addition to helping the local economy, locally grown produce is fresher than imported foods and is typically more flavorful.  Most locally grown food is also organic and cleaner since it is not mass produced.

Unlike imported foods, locally grown fruits and vegetables are actually bed for freshness and taste.  Foods grown locally are generally safer and healthier because they have not been exposed to hormones, pesticides, antibiotics or other harmful chemicals.

Devotay chef and owner Kurt Michael Friese restaurant started as selling food at the local farmer’s markets so he feels like he should support the small scale growers.  Local produce also is fresher and cleaner.  “I want a world where everyone can enjoy real food.  And by real food I mean there isn’t anything else in it besides food.”

Local farmer, Mike Stutsman of Dirty Face Creek Farm chooses to be organic because “I think it’s a lot better for us and for the world.”

The JCLFA is an advocate of buying local food because it is fresher since it does not have to be transported from a far location. Food that has to be transported long distances also uses more non-renewable resources, fossil fuels and chemicals, making locally grown food the environmentally sound alternative.

The majority of imported food have to be altered to prolong shelf life and are grown to withstand industrial harvesting and extended travel time.  According to Sustainable Table, a typical carrot has to travel 1838 miles to reach your dinner table.

“Essentially it doesn’t make sense to buy tomatoes from Florida when we can grow them here instead,” said Stutsman.

In addition to the carbon footprint caused by the transportation of imported goods, these products also need to be packaged and the packaging materials eventually need to be disposed of causing even more pollution.

President of the JCLFA, James Nisley, explains that buying locally grown food in a celebration of community.  “We share the joys of community based agriculture, where people are connected to the seasons, the land, the food and each other.”

His take on buying from local farmers is that it should be the obvious choice.

Slow Food USA and it’s local chapter, Slow Food Iowa City, are advocates of buying locally grown food as well and links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Their website provides information on restaurants and other places you can buy locally grown produce.

Two University of Iowa students shared their opinion on the local restaurant’s food choice.

“I think it’s great,” said Senior, Kailey Clawson.  “I eat at a lot of these restaurants and can tell that the ingredients they use are really fresh.”

“It’s really cool that these restaurants are supporting the local economy,” said Junior, Jake Kundert.  “Serving good food while saving the planet is always the best choice.”

Overall, the restaurants that buy locally grown food have the right idea.  This choice not only improves the quality of the food that is served, but is cost effective and helps the community.

All photos used in this article were captured at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market and were taken by Lindsey Thompson.

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