On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Sara Brito, co-founder of the Good Food 100 Restaurants List, talks about what better food means for the food system: “to be really good, food has to be really good for everyone involved in the food chain, from the environment, to the animals, to the farmers, and ultimately to us, the eaters,” says Brito.
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“I felt that the conversation around food wasn’t telling the whole story: by just focusing on taste, it was really not focusing on the whole story of food,” says Brito. By starting the Good Food 100 Restaurants List in 2017, Brito aimed to annually recognize chefs in restaurants, cafeterias, and more who are changing the food system by supporting local and national farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. “It’s a platform to celebrate the chefs and restaurants that are truly putting their money where their mouth is and trying to buy good food, and they are trying to honor and support every link in the food chain.”
The 125 restaurants that participated in the list in 2018 are using their purchasing power to generate even more economic activity in the good food sector. “The restaurants that applied and participated spent US$80.1 million on good food, and that US$80.1 million had a US$255 million economic impact on the national good food economy… it’s really telling because it says that every dollar that a restaurant allocates toward good food is having almost 3 times the economic impact,” says Brito.
While purchasing power is an important quantifier for the list, Brito has expanded the criteria to include the restaurant’s policies toward its own staff. This includes “asking restaurants if they have an official sexual harassment policy; also asking them if they’re making an effort to reduce food waste in the kitchen, whether they’re shifting toward plant-forward or plant-based menus, and if they looking at other sustainably minded things when it comes to composting and eco-friendly paper products,” says Brito.
“So we’re encouraging chefs and restaurants to be proactive and get out ahead of [transparency] before they have some sort of a crisis that they have to react to in their community,” says Brito. However, chefs can’t push for good food alone to drive change in the food system: they must have the support of the producers and distributors they source from. “If there are no good farmers, then there is no good food: producers are really critical and they’re the basis of our good food system,” says Brito. “And I think distributors are often pointed to as[…] the problem, but they also are going to have to be part of the solution.”
Photo courtesy of Sara Brito.