As the economy begins recovering after COVID-19, farm to table concepts can do the most good among reopened restaurants and bars. Farm fresh produce and meat/dairy products produced, sold and consumed in Illinois provide concentrated nutrition and economic stimulus. During this crucial time, supporting our neighbors is a responsibility that is on your plate.
On March 16th, Governor Pritzker closed bars and restaurants for on site consumption, allowing only delivery and curbside pickup. For independently run restaurants, this order meant grave setbacks while facing expenses such as property taxes, utilities, and loan payments. The call to “flatten the curve,” grew more ubiquitous and countless restaurant owners and workers made the necessary sacrifice to mitigate the pandemic. Now, as summer settles in, and the food industry warms up, what is the best way forward in a corona-conscious economy?
In May, Governor Pritzker announced the Restore Illinois Plan, a 5 phase method to restart the Illinois economy. Already in Phase 3 (the recovery) restaurants may operate with outdoor dining only. This is a big step for many, but leaves out those without outdoor options readily available. Phase 4 will allow for dining indoors later this summer but questions remain such as, “Is it safe to eat out again?” “Can I be sure certain food safety measures are being taken?” “Will meat be safe to consume?”
Safety concerns are well warranted as industrial food systems have broken down amidst the pandemic. Sourcing products has become difficult as large, concentrated packaging and processing facilities close due to being hotbeds for the virus. However, restaurants with farm to table business models are safer and most socially responsible establishments to return to upon reopening. Restaurants that prioritize local ingredients are protecting their customers by ensuring products come into contact with the least amount of hands as possible, and economically support our local farms.
Engrained Brewery and Restaurant in Springfield provides some insight into the lengths farm to table businesses will go to ensure safety and sanitation for customers and staff. Owner, founder and brewmaster, Brent Shwoerer, released a video to express the importance of reopening restaurants. Brent empathizes with elected officials and applauds the Restore Illinois plan stating, “I believe restaurants can open their dining rooms and operate just as safe if not safer than many of the other businesses allowed to open in Phase 3.”
Reopening plans for Engrained Brewery and Restaurant include guidelines such as: maintaining 6 feet or more between dining tables, reservations only, no waiting inside for your table, limiting groups to 10 guests, and performing disinfecting wipe downs of each area after guests depart.
Engrained also sources from local farmers in the area, providing ingredients that don’t have to travel miles across the country and instead come direct from farms to your plate.
Engrained is just one of the thousands that will have to readjust to the new normal after COVID-19. So when deciding where to begin dining again, prioritize those who give detailed attention to safety measures and emphasis on supporting the local economy. Supporting your neighbor can start on your plate.