The Local Flavors meal series makes its debut in northern Illinois

The dining room of Feed ‘Em Soup Community Project in DeKalb was filled to capacity the evening of July 19. The crowd came for the first Local Flavors meal in northern Illinois.

“Feed ‘Em Soup’s capacity is 100 people in the dining room and we filled it up,” Dan Kenney, organizer of the event, said.

Kenney heads DeKalb County Community Gardens, or DCCG, which has 10 acres split between 37 different locations in DeKalb County. The event raised funds for DCCG and Feed ‘Em Soup, as well as raised awareness about local food.

“We’re very agricultural but we’re not food-oriented. We have a good, core group of people that really care about this issue and slowly we’re starting to raise awareness about the importance of local food,” Kenney said. “A lot of people commented afterwards how much they enjoyed it and were asking when the next one would be.”

Local Flavors started in central Illinois as a way to connect local farmers and chefs, and show consumers the great things that can be done with local produce and meat. The meals are held during the height of the growing season, June through October. It has grown over the past six years to include restaurants in Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington-Normal and Peoria. Restaurants in those areas hold their meals on the same day of the month (the first Tuesday for lunches and the third Thursday for dinners), though like the meal in DeKalb, restaurants outside of the core geographical area are encouraged to hold their own Local Flavors meal.

“It’s great to see the Local Flavors meal series start to take root outside of central Illinois. Local Flavors helps farmers and chefs start long-lasting relationships, and it is the perfect showcase for the amazing food grown in the state,” Drew Thomason, outreach coordinator for Illinois Stewardship Alliance said.

Kenney said the meal used produce and meat from three different farms, as well as vegetables supplied by DCCG.

The event in DeKalb was such a success that Kenney said there are now two more Local Flavors events planned. The first will be on Sept. 22 from 6pm to 8pm at Tapalaluna Tapas Bar, 226 E. Lincoln, DeKalb, IL 60115. The cost of the meal will be $45. The second event will be Oct. 4 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church in DeKalb and will be in partnership with Welcome Cafe and Community Center. Anyone interested in attending either event can email Kenney at dkenney53@hotmail.com.