Are you a local foods lover? Perhaps you are a local foods skeptic? Or maybe you do not know what the definition of local foods actually means? Regardless of your stance on local foods, there is a brand spanking new grocery store, distribution hub and cafe opening this summer right in our backyard. And guess what? Just about everything in the space is going to be sourced from Midwest farmers and growers.
Chicago Local Foods
So what is the definition of local foods? “The FDA’s definition for local foods varies by a city’s population,” says Local Foods Chief Operating Officer and Head of Business Development, David Rand. “In Chicago, IL the criteria for a food to be considered local means it has to be grown and harvested within 400 miles of the city limits.” Chicago based Local Foods Inc. has been distributing a variety of provisions from Midwestern farmers to restaurants, retailers and institutions in Chicago and surrounding suburbs since 2013.
With rapid growth of the locavore movement and more of Chicago’s chef’s opting to source high quality, sustainable, locally sourced produce, dairy and meat; Local Foods has grown out of their current distribution space and will be opening it’s doors (and loading docks) to the public sometime this summer. They are also opening a retail store and cafe that consumers can purchase locally derived produce, dairy, meat and associated ingredients to complete a sustainably gourmet meal in your very own kitchen.
Wait, how do you get local produce year round in the Midwest?
That is a question that many of us have pondered when seeing the word “local” next to “blueberry” on restaurants across the city. According to Local Foods management team, a lot of seasonal produce is frozen in it’s peak of freshness, therefore providing consumers with the best nutrition and flavor year round. Local Foods cans and preserves hardier items such as beets, squash and other gourdes for restaurants to use on their menus throughout the cold winter months. When asked how Local Foods procures Midwest grown lettuce and other delicate types of produce year round, Local Foods CFO, Ryan Kimura, answered, “We cannot source every single item from the Midwest year round as you simply cannot obtain certain ingredients. We also do not source items such as lemons or olive oil locally for similar reasons. However, we want to provide a one stop shop for consumers looking to make a meal made from mainly locally sourced provisions….. Though you can grow some greens and herbs hydroponically and other varieties of produce in greenhouses there simply isn’t enough supply to meet the demand.”
1427 W. Willow Street in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, IL marks the new location for Local Foods’ 30,000 sq. foot retail, event and commercial space. In addition to expanding their loading dock for the distribution arm of the business, the space will also host Chicago based institutional catering company, Hand Cut Foods. Hand Cut Foods currently supplies select private schools and healthcare facilities across Chicago with custom, fresh and nutritious meals catered directly to their door. “Hand Cut Foods creates 10,000 meals per day, from scratch, and caters to special diets; including both vegan and gluten-free,” reports Hand Cut Food’s President and Executive Chef, Steven Obendorf.
Local Food’s guests can unwind and nosh on Midwestern fare at their 18 seat cafe.” We are still working on our liquor license, but hope to have that in tact for our opening,” Kimura noted. Locally sourced craft brews, wines and distills could be on the horizon for Local Food’s guests.
Local Foods’ new facility is set to open sometime this summer. The date is still TBD given management is currently working with the city of Chicago for various permits and licenses. When asked if we will see this model duplicated in other cities across America, Kimura stated, “We have not ruled out the possibility of duplicating this model in other cities.” Kimura specifically mentioned Missouri, due to it’s proximity to Chicago.