Compass Group made a decision to support the local food economy more than six years ago, with "Eat Local", a formal company-wide purchasing commitment to buy food items from regional small and mid-size farmers. We started small, with particular concern around supply and safety. However, it has grown and has become one of our most successful initiatives.
In 2011, we purchased more than $26 million of local produce.
A pilot to use flash frozen vegetables was also successful. In the Northeast, Chartwells Schools, working with the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, was been able to bring 17,200 pounds of locally grown flash frozen vegetables into the schools in their region this past season.
In 2011, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) purchased approximately 300,000 pounds of regional frozen produce which included yellow squash coins, an apple/blueberry blend, green peas, zucchini, shoestring carrots and more. We added new varieties including an apple/cranberry blend which Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality uses in healthy breakfast parfaits that the students love. For 2012, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality at CPS has arranged to purchase local chicken legs, grown by Amish farmers in Northern Indiana without the added use of antibiotics. We are on track to purchase one million pounds of legs from Miller Poultry company. The students have been extremely receptive.
Our guests love the 'Eat Local' program and really like the information we provide in our cafes about seasonality, and local farmers we use. Our chefs have fully embraced using local ingredients, as they're always looking for the freshest taste, a developed flavor profile and the highest quality.
While we talk about the success of our Eat Local program, how does it affect the farmer?
Here's an example.
Blue Hills Orchard was founded in 1904 and is a fifth-generation 318-acre family farm. It was founded by Eric Henry's great-great grandfather who was the dean of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin before relocating to Wallingford, Connecticut.
"Grown due to the steady and reliable
stream of customers Chartwells brings..."
Over the last ten years, Blue Hills Orchard has increased their sales by 300 percent. There has been a very large emphasis on local purchasing and Blue Hills has been experience growth partially due to the expansion of local food sourcing in schools. In the first three months of this school year alone, Chartwells K12 purchased 25% of its produce from local farms like Blue Hills. At the end of October 2011, Chartwells in Connecticut purchased 253 cases of apples from Blue Hills alone.
Our farmer: Eric Henry, Blue Hills Orchard, Wallingford, CT
"Blue Hills Orchards has experienced 300 percent growth over the past ten years. This is partially due to new growing techniques, but more importantly. due to the steady and reliable stream of customers that Fresh Point and Chartwells brings to the table. Schools have provided us a market to sell smaller, harder-to-move fruits and apples that work perfectly in the school environment. It's the right portion size for a child. The farm's apple sales alone have increased from 60,000 to 120,000 bushels a year and we expect to grow to 150,000 bushels within the next several years."
Our associate: Richard Medico, Director, Business Needs, Foodbuy
"We are successful connecting with local farmers such as Blue Hills and partnering with our local produce partners such as Fresh Point by opening our distribution channels to connect the two, thereby expanding the potential customer base for farmers. Because of Chartwells and Foodbuy [our purchasing arm], farmers have access to many more customers and are able to discover new markets for their products."
Our supplier: David Yandow, Fresh Point:
"FreshPoint believes supporting any local farm is a critical choice. We choose a culture of sustaining local farming families and we choose to preserve the precious lands they farm. Supporting regional farms feeds local economies and provides for bounties of safe and affordable foods for generations to come. We're happy that Compass has a culture that supports local farms, and they are a large purchaser of locally grown."