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Foodservice Firm, Bon Appetit, Posts 80% Increase in Small Farm Food Purchases

Sustainable food leader Bon Appétit Management Company said Wednesday that its annual purchases from farmers and artisans hit $55 million, accounting for 30 percent of its total food purchasing expenditures in 2006.

Responding to consumer's growing concern over the nation's food production system, many companies are developing and implementing sustainable sourcing policies.

Proponents of 'buy local' food systems call it a viable business alternative to buying from large industrial organic farms, whether located across the country or overseas.

"Small family farms deserve our full commitment, and most especially our financial support," said Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit's chief executive officer. "In the absence of a farm bill that performs this function, we are proud that our business model strengthens farm health and improves America's food security. We challenge all food service and restaurant companies to buy local."

Demonstrating that buying from small local farms is a scalable business model for food service, the $55 million spent on local food purchases is nearly an 80 percent increase over 2005 purchases of $30 million, the Palo Alto, Calif.,-based foodservice giant said.

Bon Appétit defines local as grown within 150 miles of the café where the food is served. The company purchases from over 560 individual farms across the nation.

Bon Appétit Management Co. is an onsite restaurant company offering full food service management to corporations, universities and specialty venues including over 400 cafes in 28 states at clients such as Oracle Corporation, American University and the Getty Center.

Bon Appétit was the first and is still the only company to enact a system-wide local purchasing policy. Today Bon Appétit's annual expenditures on local foods far exceed that of any other food service company, according to data from FarmToCollege.org.

Bon Appétit's Farm to Fork policy and program stipulates that a minimum of 20 percent of purchases in all of its 400 cafes come from local farmers or artisan producers.

"During last season's peach harvest, one of our farmers ended up with 300 cases of peaches that needed to be sold or they would rot on the trees," said Anya Fernald, food program director of Community Alliance with Family Farmers. "Our local Bon Appétit chefs bought the entire harvest, a move that convinced the grower to keep his farm in business, although he had been considering selling the land. They have been a true partner."