Events to focus on local food
By Burton Speakman
The local-food movement continues to grow, and starting Saturday, there will be two events to promote the effort.
Restaurant Week starts Saturday and continues through Aug. 16. During the week, a number of local restaurants will offer special menu items that contain locally sourced ingredients from the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.
Locally sourced meals already make up about 20 percent of the menu at Magic Tree Pub & Eatery, 7463 South Ave., said chef John Jucisin. There also are special farm-to-table nights at the restaurant in which the menu can be as much as 90 percent local.
“In some ways, it’s easier to work with local sources,” Jucisin said. “Plus, it’s way fresher. You shouldn’t be eating lettuce from California because by the time it’s gotten all the way here, it’s lost most of its nutrition.”
These 30-mile-meal efforts are a great way to increase awareness of local food, said Jason Wilson, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia.
For the governor’s office, local-food movements are a way “to boost the economy,” he said.
Thirty-mile meals already have been successful in Ohio in the Athens area, Wilson said.
“They create a group of local producers that work together,” he said. “We see these types of efforts as a way to promote entrepreneurship and create jobs.”
Another example of the local-food movement has occurred in Columbiana County involving the corn crop, Wilson said. At one point, much of the crop was sent out of state, but now a larger percentage is remaining in the area to feed growing demand.
Sandy Reda, who owns Magic Tree with her husband, Phill, said they believe it is important to support local farmers whenever they can.
Promoting these efforts supports economic development within the area, said April Stanislaw, director of special events at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
“This will help drive business to local establishments,” she said.
There are both a paper “passport” and a phone application where people can keep track of the number of 30-mile-meal businesses they have frequented over the next year starting with Restaurant Week. Those who go to 16 such restaurants will be eligible for a prize.
A full list of the restaurants and food distributors involved in either Restaurant Week or the 30-mile meals is available online at 30milemealms.org. The phone application also is available at the website.