October Ushers in Local Food Week

The first full week of October will be Local Food Week, a growing annual event supported by the New Paltz village Board and enjoyed by the community.

The plans for the event were finalized just three days before Hurricane Irene hit New Paltz, destroying a large amount of local food. Village Trustee Ariana Basco decided to have this year’s festivities benefit the farmers whose land was destroyed in the floods.

According to a study by Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO), the farms in the Mid-Hudson region require a variety of labor resources to provide their food. Small farms that are family owned and operated require the service of laborers who are often seasonal immigrants from Mexico or the Caribbean. In the aftermath of the storm, the destruction of the local farms is severely impeding the livelihoods of the people dependent on them.

“This year I chose to start with the restaurants who are using locally grown ingredients in their menus,” Basco said. “There are over 50 businesses in the Village where you can purchase food prepared on site and this year 19 of them have chosen to participate in Local Food Week.”

Local businesses will participate in the event by identifying ingredients coming from within 25 miles of New Paltz, highlighting locally-grown dishes on their menus and giving specials on them for the week. These participating venues will also be listed on a poster to be hung all around town and in the restaurants.

According to the study, there are many social, economic, health and environmental benefits to supporting local farms. Individuals can support local agriculture by purchasing at farmers’ markets and locally produced retailers. It’s not uncommon for institutional buyers in the region to subcontract food service to corporations like Sodexo (as on campus) and  Aramark. To increase the use of locally produced goods local buyers will have to shift to smaller independent service companies or put pressure on their corporate providers to amend their policies. It’s best for community members to know where their food is coming from and be able to recognize their local small businesses.

“The New Paltz Local Food leaders will be awarded certificates to hang in their restaurants and will also be given free ad space in regional publications such as the Valley Table,” Basco said.

The kickoff event will be on Oct. 2 at Water Street Market from 4 to 9 p.m. where there will be music, vendors and donation booths. There will also be a Flood Aid benefit concert on Oct. 16 to further benefit our local food-growers.