Compass Expands Local Sourcing Initiative

Compass Group North America has announced the expansion of its Eat Local programs across the United States by broadening its efforts this summer to source fresh fruits and vegetables from mid-size farmers and educate consumers about the merits of eating local. Compass defines 'local' as food grown within a 150 mile radius of where it is consumed. It has supported 'buy local' food initiatives for over a decade and last year it purchased $17 million of local products.

Three initiatives are being launched or expanded this summer are

Ag in the Middle, an initiative that seeks to keep mid-size farmers who rely on their farm for their primary income on the land through closer relationships among growers and Compass national network of independent produce distributors. Launched in 2009 through pilots in Minnesota, North Carolina and the Washington, D.C. area, the initiative is being rolled out nationally in 2010. Compass Group's partner on Ag in the Middle is the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit organization that supports fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

10% Campaign-North Carolina. Since Compass' headquarters are in North Carolina, the company has partnered with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) on the 10% Campaign, with a goal to encourage consumers to commit 10 percent of their existing food dollars to support local food producers. Compass is developing a parallel model 'farm to institution' buying program and will source 10 percent of the produce it serves in its North Carolina accounts from local farmers in the state.

It Takes You-Eat Local, through which cafes around the country will feature locally grown produce, conduct on-site farmers markets, sponsor farm tours and promote menu selections that feature local ingredients in an effort to provide visibility to the many benefits of buying locally. Last year's promotion tallied $2,926,708. This year, the program will be expanded to a month-long campaign slated for September 2010.

"These programs support the continued viability of regionally-focused, mid-sized farmers,” says Marc Zammit, vice president of corporate sustainability initiatives and culinary. “We can help support those farms' success, while fostering sustainable agricultural methods and enjoying regional flavors. Food miles are significantly reduced when we buy locally, not to mention the many health benefits of eating fresh foods harvested at their peak point of nutrition. It's a business model that not only works but is the right thing to do."