RYE BROOK, NY (July 12, 2012)—Chartwells School Dining Services is increasing local produce sourcing for the upcoming school year in the New England region. Representatives are working with several large produce houses in an effort to be proactive in sourcing more local food and to get the word out to local farmers to produce more supply for schools. This initiative continues as a result of a recent summit at the Worchester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts for representatives from various Farm-to-School programs and State Agricultural offices to discuss topics such as increased production, transparency and marketing.
Chartwells works with local farmers to determine the food items each farm provides and then markets the products accordingly. “Many of our producers already do a very good job at this but there is always room for improvement and we are looking for our other distributors to follow suit,” said Glenn Brunetti, Chartwells Regional Chef for the Northeast.
In New England states such as Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, demand is stronger than supply due to a shorter growing season. As a result, Chartwells looks to maximize local offerings and extend it with their Fresh/Frozen Produce Program into the winter months. The Fresh/Frozen Produce Program processes local flash frozen vegetables in schools during months when school is not in session. The program helps retain processing and sales in the Northeast and cuts down substantially on “food miles” to ensure that school menus feature local products all year round.
Chartwells is also making great inroads with the Northeast Farm to School network. “They are becoming great advocates of what we do locally in schools and are also helping us get the word out about our demand needs,” said Brunetti. “Farmers really listen to this organization.” Brunetti said that at conferences last year, the organization was instrumental in promoting Chartwells’ local sourcing efforts and heard great feedback from attendees about the great things Chartwells has done in their community with local produce. Chartwells will be attending the National Farm to School Conference in August and looks forward to spreading the word about their local produce sourcing initiatives.
“What's so exciting about our partnership with the produce houses and the summit is that we have been teaming up with regional chefs from other sectors company-wide to help get the word out about how committed we all are to buying local,” said Brunetti. “We all have similar sourcing needs and this adds up to a lot of local product going to students all across the region.”