Workshop to focus on local foods

Housing Dining Services at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign are hosting a one-day workshop on using locally-grown foods in state institutions.

In 2009, Illinois required that state institutions like universities, prisons and mental health facilities get 20 percent of the food they serve from producers in Illinois by 2020. UIUC has already met that goal and is working toward getting 40 percent of its food from within Illinois, said Dawn Aubrey, Associate Director of Housing for Dining at the University.

“Local foods became a focus for us approximately seven years ago,” Aubrey said. “We see this as something that reflects our students’ values.”

But while state law calls for more locally produced foods in state institutions, Aubrey said the complexity of the state’s buying system can make it difficult for farmers and food producers to get their products into state institutions.

To help them navigate those complex systems and regulations, University Housing Dining Services is hosting a Local Food Symposium at the Champaign County Farm Bureau Wednesday, with speakers beginning at 9 a.m. and running through 3 p.m. The event is free and open to anyone.

“The local food symposium is about connecting producers, processors and those institutions within the state of Illinois,” Aubrey said. “It’s about knowing what is needed and how to navigate the state purchasing system.”

The symposium includes information on resources like University of Illinois Extension.