This holiday season, farm-fresh food is on everyone’s mind.
Most food shoppers need help understanding what it takes to bring locally-sourced products to the table. What they do know: ingredients sourced from within their communities make for some of the freshest, tastiest meals.
The hype over locally-sourced food is real. Produce picked at peak ripeness typically carries more vitamins and minerals.
Kentucky Proud is making it easier for food service businesses to affordably source local, farm-fresh ingredients.
Restaurants, cafés, bakeries, and distributors in Eastern Kentucky should plan to take full advantage of Kentucky Proud programs. Plus, it’s easy and free to get involved.
Keep reading to find out how Kentucky Proud makes locally-sourced ingredients more affordable — and if you’re eligible for a new grant opportunity from the Department of Agriculture.
Kentucky Proud Buy Local
Why is it important to use locally-sourced ingredients? There are several compelling reasons:
- Food shoppers love supporting nearby farms, especially when it’s affordable and convenient.
- Tourists seek out authentic travel experiences — which include enjoying locally-sourced meals that reflect the flavors and traditions of the region.
- Eating locally provides health benefits. Food products sourced from family farms tend to be less processed and align with good nutritional decisions.
What has stood in the way of Kentuckians eating local ingredients more often? Cost has played a role. Large farms enjoy several economic advantages — distribution networks included — that often make their products cheaper. For family farms working hard to protect their cost margins, it’s been a challenge to compete on a price basis.
Kentucky Proud Buy Local tackles this challenge head-on. It incentivizes restaurants and other food service businesses to source program-certified ingredients that are delicious — and support our regional agricultural economy.
Participants in the program can earn up to 15% back on eligible farm ingredient purchases.
Who benefits from Kentucky Proud?
Restaurants, suppliers, and other food service businesses: Providing locally sourced ingredients helps get customers talking about you. Advertising may help build customer awareness and spark excitement about your offerings. Plus, the program makes it more affordable to launch locally-sourced menus.
Customers: Buying locally inspires a sense of pride in your community. Customers also benefit from the increased nutrition that this category of food products often feature.
Local farms: When food service businesses arrange ingredient procurement on a consistent basis, family farms receive a reliable income to keep operating year after year.
How to participate in Kentucky Proud Buy Local
Buy Local participants ordered nearly $3 million in products from Kentucky farms in 2018.
If you’re not taking advantage of this program, you’re missing out on cost savings and opportunities to delight your customers.
Follow these steps to sign up for the Buy Local program:
- Check your eligibility. You must represent a food service operation such as a restaurant, caterer, food truck, cafeteria, mobile food vendor, café, baker, concession, or other food service operation.
- Activate your free Kentucky Proud membership.
- Complete a Buy Local application. If you’re a distributor, fill out this application.
- Note that you’re only eligible for discounts starting when your application is approved. Use this time to plan menus and procurement.
- With your application approval in hand, you can start purchasing eligible farm products. Meat, cheese, eggs, and produce all apply.
- Submit invoices to the program to reimburse up to 15% of your eligible purchases.
- If your food distributor is a program participant, they can submit invoices on your behalf.
Note that you cannot receive reimbursement for the food products you sell directly to consumers. You must use ingredients in prepared dishes to be eligible.
Participating farms and suppliers
Thanks to Kentucky Proud’s complimentary promotional services, becoming a qualified vendor will likely increase your name recognition throughout the community.
You’ll have the opportunity to bring in new customers and increase sales among Kentucky Proud certified food service businesses. In most cases, those new customers will be setting up recurring orders and long-term partnerships, creating predictability for your income.
You may even gain direct consumer customers. The restaurants and cafés featuring your ingredients may list your farm’s name on their menus and labels. Building name recognition will help your promotional efforts for CSA shares, farm stands, farmers’ markets, and other channels that bring in new customers.
Kentucky Proud wants to help local farms continue their important work. Their reimbursement program for food service businesses should help you sell your products at rates that enable living wages for your family and your workers.
Do you represent a farm or supplier and want to become a member of Kentucky Proud? Fill out this application to be considered.
Check out the complete list of participating farms, vendors, and suppliers here.
Grant opportunity for food service businesses
Food service businesses should plan to inform and educate consumers about locally-sourced menus. Advertising is a costly but effective tactic.
Kentucky Proud encourages all program participants to spread the word and offers a grant to help defray the costs of advertising. Member businesses sourcing verified products are eligible to apply.
The KY Department of Agriculture will pay up to 50% of promotional expenses to grant awardees. Qualified activities include costs related to advertising, marketing, and customer outreach. The maximum award is $8,000.
Need help with preparing your grant materials? Check out our free eBook on crafting a winning grant application with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.
Once you’ve consulted this resource, complete your application by December 31, 2021.
Get involved with Kentucky Proud Buy Local
Kentucky Proud is transforming our local agricultural and food service economy. They also provide marketing and promotional services free of charge, helping more consumers to make healthy, well-informed choices about what they eat.
You must first register for a free membership to take advantage of all the benefits associated with Buy Local and other Kentucky Proud programs.
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