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Green Foodservice Alliance: A New Era in Sustainability

April 2009

By Holly Elmore

Official in August, 2008, the Green Foodservice Alliance (GFA), an affiliate to the GRA, is making a difference in the foodservice industry.  The GFA’s mission is to create and implement Sustainable Best Practices in the foodservice industry.

To accomplish the mission two task forces were created: the Green Task Force and the Producers’ Task Force.  The Green Task Force initial focus is energy conservation and waste minimization, including diversion of products currently going to landfills.  Most of the recommended operational changes are cost-saving, or at least cost-neutral, in nature.  Pest control, cleaning, packaging and transportation are targeted for future projects.

The Producers’ Task Force focus is increasing the supply of local and sustainable products available to the Georgia foodservice industry through efficient and fluid distribution channels.  Via partnerships with Georgia Organics and the Georgia Grown program at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the GFA is currently assessing the roadblocks to a strong supply of local products easily available to restaurants.

Georgia Organics and the Georgia Grown Program are taking the lead on the supply end and the GFA is working on the distribution challenges.  White papers breaking down the roadblocks between economic, regulatory and legislative issues are in process.  Terry Coleman, Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Agriculture, is a strong supporter for increasing local production.  Each fall, the Department of Agriculture hosts a Georgia Grown Food Show at the State Farmers Market, which is an excellent opportunity for chefs to meet and build relationships with the producers.

Some of the challenges on the distribution side include consistency of product, quantity of supply available, amount of time required to work with many individual farmers and food safety.  Chef Linton Hopkins owner of Restaurant Eugene, Holman & Finch and H&F Bakery built his business model around using local products and developed relationships with the farmers.  Part of Linton’s model is menu flexibility to accommodate sudden shifts in product availability.

Most multi-unit and chain restaurant business models require menu consistency and use of established produce distributors who carry appropriate insurance coverage.  In general, chefs in larger operations cannot take the time required to work directly with farmers and choose to rely on distributors who can assure the delivery of a consistent product.

In Georgia there are several distributors who make supplying local products a priority.  FreshPoint hired Mike Harris, formerly with the Department of Agriculture and the State Farmers Market, to oversee their local program.  One of the biggest challenges FreshPoint faces is finding the volume of product to meet orders placed by their larger accounts.  One of FreshPoint’s customers, Sodexo @ Emory University, is committed to increasing local/sustainable purchases to 75% of all purchases by 2015.  FreshPoint is working closely with Sodexo to ensure their commitment is met.

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