Illinois Stewardship Alliance is proud to announce the kick off of the new Local Flavors Week series this June. The new series, a spin-off of the popular Local Flavors series, gives residents of rural central Illinois communities a chance to purchase a farm-to-table meal from some of their favorite hometown restaurants.
The original Local Flavors series, now in it’s 9th season, operates in Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, and Peoria. Participating restaurants are asked to create a special menu for one day that consists almost entirely of locally sourced ingredients. These events take place on the third Thursday of each month and rotate to different restaurants within each city of the four cities. The aim of the series is to highlight restaurants that already have a commitment to sourcing at least a portion of their ingredients locally and to give these restaurants an opportunity to showcase their skills in preparing an almost entirely local menu.
The new Local Flavors Week series, by contrast, extends to smaller communities outside of the four main urban areas mentioned above and aims to reach new restaurants and audiences with the “buy local” message. The series helps connect restaurants to local farmers and gives restaurants a week-long event to test the waters when it comes to sourcing locally. Local Flavors Week events will take place the third week each month, June – October and will rotate to a different restaurant in a different central Illinois community each month. Chefs from participating restaurants will create a “Local Flavors Special” featuring almost entirely seasonal produce and proteins sourced directly from central Illinois farmers and will offer this special for the entire week. Customers can stop by any participating restaurant on their scheduled week during their regular business hours to order the “Local Flavors Special.”
The first Local Flavors Week event will take place in Effingham June 19th – 25th at Joe Sippers Cafe. As their Local Flavors Special, Joe Sippers will be offering a Summer Salad featuring:
Spinach and Green Onion from Krops4Kids in Watson, IL
Strawberries and Blueberries from Just Berries in Stewardson, IL
Goat Cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in Champaign, IL
Pecans from Voss Pecans in Carlyle, IL
Foccacia Breadsticks from Pekara Bakehouse in Champaign, IL
Served with Zested Lemon and Poppyseed Dressing.
The Local Flavors Week series is organized by Illinois Stewardship Alliance in conjunction with local partners. The series is designed to provide small farmers with an opportunity to increase sales locally, give restaurants an opportunity to make connections with local farmers, and give central Illinois residents the opportunity to experience the true flavors of Illinois while also supporting local businesses and locally-grown products.
According the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Council, over the last 50 years the decline of rural towns and villages parallels the decline of the farmers’ share of the dollar that consumers spend on food from over 40 percent to less than 20 percent. Restaurants and residents that buy direct from local farmers in place of distributors or chain stores return 100 percent of the dollar back to local farmers and re-invest in their local economy.
“We really wanted to foster connections between local farmers and local restaurants in central Illinois, says Molly Gleason, Communications Director at Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “Larger communities like Springfield and Bloomington have already started to catch onto the local food trend, but it’s the smaller communities that stand to gain the most from buying locally. When a person goes to a restaurant and can see that the lettuce came from their neighbor down the way or the hamburger came from the farmer that they go to church with, it makes a real impact. They know that they’re purchasing a meal that directly puts money back in their community.”
Dates and Locations for Local Flavors Week events are as follows:
June 19 – 25th: Joe Sippers Cafe, Effingham
July 17th – 23rd: C & C Kitchen, Rantoul
August 14th – 20th: Bidwell’s Bistro, Mattoon
September 18th – 24th: Flesor’s Candy Kitchen, Tuscola
October 16th – 22nd: The Gin Mill, Decatur
“We love using local ingredients!” says Kevin Hiatt, owner at Joe Sippers Café, “Local food is fresher. Fresher food is better. There’s just something about working with people close to you and seeing for yourself where the food comes from. We are proud to participate in the Local Flavors event!”
Both the Local Flavors and Local Flavors Week series were created by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a statewide non-profit organization that supports local food and sustainable farming through policy advocacy, conservation education, and local food programs. The Alliance also operates the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois chapter, providing central Illinois residents and restaurants with access to a list of local farmers and products. The full schedule of events in all cities can be viewed here: Local Flavors in Bloomington-Normal, Local Flavors in Peoria, Local Flavors in Champaign-Urbana, Local Flavors in Springfield, and Local Flavors Week. Menus will be posted on the website and facebook page in advance of each event and will also be featured in the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter to stay up to date on the latest menu announcements as well as area food and farm events, news, and recipes.