Would you prefer to assist the native meals motion in northeast Indiana? There’s a new interactive information for this

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March, northeast Indiana residents flocked to Facebook groups to support local restaurants, producers, and business owners.

Now a Fort Wayne-based organization is working to provide a regularly updated and fully interactive Local Food Guide for the 11 counties in northeast Indiana.

As director of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, Janet Katz watched as the pandemic disrupted local and national food systems this spring, leaving grocery store shelves empty, and food prices skyrocketing. In the middle of it all, she wondered what her organization could do to help the situation.

Since its inception in 2015, the Local Food Network has supported the growth of a vibrant local food market across the region by increasing visibility, connections and economic opportunities for farmers, producers and businesses in the region.

While Katz was working from home during the quarantine, she took on one of the long-awaited projects of her organization: the creation of an interactive local food guide.

The Local Food Guide was published on the Local Food Network website this week and features a list of 100+ regional farmers, artisanal food producers, farmers markets, grocery stores, restaurants, local organizations, and more related to local food.

Katz says the guide is free for manufacturers and consumers alike, and is designed to help business owners identify opportunities in the local market and help consumers find the products and services they crave. To do this efficiently, the guide can be searched for food offers, services and individual counties within the region. There are even lists for food-related services, like composting facilities, Katz says.

To be included in the guide, businesses and organizations must grow, buy, sell, use, and / or serve local food and strengthen the local food system in northeast Indiana, a press release said. Katz plans to add more entries to the resource in the coming weeks as companies reach out or reach out to her.

“We know this guide is incomplete, but we’re off to a good start,” she says. “We welcome and encourage other businesses and organizations such as community gardens to contact us to be included on the list. You don’t have to sell or serve local food to be accepted; All you have to do is put a focus on supporting the food grown or grown on the soil in northeast Indiana. “

To collect the records, she has reached out to farmers, producers and business owners and asked them to fill out forms online or fill out the information for them over the phone.

“A lot of our producers in northeast Indiana are Amish, so they don’t do anything online,” says Katz.

The Local Food Guide will therefore also be available in an annual print version from 2021. Katz explains.

Given that many farmers and restaurant owners were already pressed for time before COVID-19, she hopes that having a single point of contact for sharing updates with the public will give them an accessible way to keep consumers informed.

“So many people turned around,” says Katz. “Local farmers serve different markets and are trying to expand their online presence. We felt that making a Local Food Guide would be a great resource for people and an easy way to keep our community connected. “

Farmers like Tristan and Melissa Willard, owners of the Woods Edge Family Farm near Huntertown, are excited about the Local Food Guide’s potential to fill gaps in their advertising opportunities as well.

“As gardeners, we put the majority of our time, passion and resources into growing nutritious, high-quality products,” the Willards say in a press release, where you can find the extra time for marketing or finding new connections. This Local Food Guide will be an invaluable resource for connecting with the wider community and helping make what we love possible and sustainable. “

In addition to helping farmers, one goal of the Local Food Network is to promote a local food movement in northeast Indiana that is robust, accessible, and affordable.

Although Indiana has long been known as a farming state, much of the state’s agriculture has shifted from diversified family farms to big ag and mass crops since the postwar period. While this shift has in some ways created efficiency gains and economic opportunities, it has also weakened the state’s local food economy and its ability to be self-sufficient. It is only recently that more and more consumers have become interested in where their food is coming from and looking for a variety of crops grown by Indiana farmers.

“Local food has really picked up speed in our region over the past five years,” says Katz. “We have seen a real driving force in our community lately. I think you can see that just by taking part in our farmers’ markets. “

But while the movement is gaining momentum in northeast Indiana, the state of Hoosier is about 15 years behind neighboring states like Michigan when it comes to supporting local food, Katz says. In fact, this discrepancy first inspired her to do her Masters in Sustainable Food Systems.

“I wanted to have a deeper understanding of why Northeast Indiana is so far behind the curve in this regard,” she says.

During her studies, she learned that part of the grounds were simply the nature of Indiana’s land, which is open and flat, which makes it ideal for growing crops that require large implements. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the fragility of the current, highly outsourced food system in Indiana and beyond, a movement is underway to locate more crops and food production in the state.

Katz hopes the Local Food Guide for Northeast Indiana will be a step in the right direction to support the increased demand for local food and empower both the community and the economy with outreach opportunities.

“Our organization is taking a small piece of the puzzle and trying to promote the whole concept of local nutrition, increasing the demand for local food and supporting the local food supply,” says Katz. “We feel like this is part of the puzzle to connect everyone.”

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