Out of home meal providers lead by example to provide consumers with local, seasonal and ethically produced food. The benefits of this approach are that it touches more people by influencing a few. That is, changing the buying habits of a single chef or cook, in turn, changes their hundreds of customers consumption to more sustainable.
Eco-Eats would be a dynamic and ever expanding network of restaurants, caterers, cafes, tuckshops, cafeteria's etc. who are keen to go green. These time-poor businesses would be supported by Eco-Eats Connectors who put them in touch with suitable producers (both commercial and community-based) and suppliers of local and sustainable food. Eco-Eats Connectors would also be responsible for coordinating supplier databases, community events, business workshops and promotional activities.
The overall aims are to increase awareness of, and demand for, local and sustainable food amongst:
- people running, working in and setting up catering companies – both commercial and social enterprises
- these catering companies’ customers
- members of local community groups
- catering lecturers and students
- teachers and schoolchildren
Actions and activities that could be undertaken might include:
- the development and continued maintenance of regional food producer databases to make it easy for out of home meal providers to find and use suppliers of local, seasonal, organic and ethically produced food.
- Awareness raising and training events for businesses, catering colleges and community groups/schools. For instance, farm visits, cooking demonstrations and workshops explaining the intricacies of sustainable food systems including food waste.
- Promotion of exemplars through social media and search tools such as print and on-line dining out guides.
- Help and information to businesses and start-ups through one-to-one advice, e-bulletins and seasonal menu planning.
- Help for food businesses to engage local community groups and schools on healthy and sustainable eating activities.
- Encouragement and advice for awards promoters to improve sustainable food categories.
- Encourage small-scale urban food production in catering enterprises such as roof gardens, composting and bee keeping.
This is a practical approach that is effective in improving the food system on a big scale with relatively little input from the project hosts (potentially a non-Government organization supported by Government or Commercial funding). It is good for food businesses because they get fresher, tastier food due to it being local and seasonal. It also gives keen food businesses a chance to build brownie points by participating in community events thereby increasing their brand recognition and green credentials. An increased focus on sustainable food at the community level will raise awareness of the issues and therefore consumers attitudes and food buying habits will be improved.