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National Restaurant Association - Local foods program on tap in Georgia

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Local foods program on tap in Georgia

Executives from the Georgia Restaurant Association recently met with officials from the state's Department of Agriculture to develop a promotional program that would build awareness among restaurateurs and consumers about locally grown food products and the important relationship local chefs have with farmers.

Called the "Georgia Grown Restaurant Program," it is expected to generate increased industry and public interest in support of local products. It also would focus on the nutritional importance of local foods and involve public and culinary schools in the use, training and recipe development of locally sourced, seasonal, sustainable cuisine.

At the meeting, Karen Bremer, the GRA's executive director, Melanie Hollingsworth, nutritional educator for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and several restaurant industry members established criteria they said would ramp up interest in the local food movement. The criteria included the selection of four area chefs to participate in spring and fall school events, a visit to a culinary and/or technical school to observe its "chef" training program, farm tours, the creation of cooking demo videos that feature Georgia Grown products and cooking events that showcase locally-sourced items.

"Whether you are a restaurant operator or consumer, purchasing local foods is good for a number of reasons," Bremer said. "The food is fresher and, therefore, more nutritious, it is energy efficient - saves fuel - and, perhaps, most importantly, it supports the community financially. By buying local, we can generate more revenue for our state, which would create more jobs. It's a win-win situation."

Bremer said the program would make its debut at the fourth annual Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception on Feb.9, 2012.

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