A new, provincial-government program is aiming to amp up awareness of local cuisine in British Columbia by enlisting restaurants, wineries, farmers, and suppliers to help spread the eat-and-drink locally message.
The Buy BC: Eat Drink Local program will roll out across the province May 1, when more than 200 B.C. restaurants and wineries begin highlighting specially crafted dished and drinks on their menus, featuring locally sourced ingredients.
“The campaign is about growing relationships between B.C. restaurants, chefs, farmers, and producers—and about building preference for everything that is grown, harvested and produced in B.C.,” says Christina Ferreira, who is organizing the campaign in the Okanagan Valley.
Ferreira explains that participating restaurants will highlight the local ingredients and dishes with a special logo on their menus.
The hope, she says, is that the promotion will not only help get the food-loving public excited about local ingredients but help better educate them what eating locally means.
Ian Tostenson is the president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, which is delivering the program on behalf of the B.C. government.
He says the Buy BC: Eat Drink Local program comes from a provincial government serious about promoting local agriculture.
“They recognize that restaurants can be a significant contributor to knowledge in terms of eating local,” he says.
Participating restaurants will all be featured on the Eat Drink Local website, where consumers can search for a local restaurant participating in the program (there will be more than 50 in the Okanagan), or learn more about eating locally.
Tostenson says he believes the website will be a valuable education resource even long after the May promotion is over.
“I think there’s opportunity there when we get through all this. The website will be a place for people to go 12 months a year to learn about eating local,” he says.
He also said he thinks the promotion will bring more big-name restaurant chains into the local food game.
A few B.C. chains are already on board, and Tostenson hopes the “momentum” of the program will attract international chains, forcing them to look for more local options to include on their menus.
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