In Perspective: Local foods

By Cynthia Bruno |

Published 11/21 2013 11:39AM

Updated 11/21 2013 03:35PM

CENTRAL ILLINOIS- There's a big boom in using local foods. 

It's a big deal for everyone from farmers to restaurateurs, to eaters.
Restaurant owners say it may look more expensive on paper to go local, but people we talked to say it's all about supporting what's around you.

Big Grove is a restaurant that's latched onto the idea of using local foods. 
Executive Chef Jessica Gorin and her staff all gather around the kitchen to taste the night's new specials. 
Everything being served is locally grown. 
It's part of Big Grove's pledge to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance to use local foods.

"We work with restaurants on a program called local flavors. It's where they promise to do one meal where they promote and use local foods and then we make posters for them, we get the word out through social media, through email, through sending out press releases," says Andrew Weeks with Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

We visited Big Grove during its local flavors dinner.
The IL Stewardship Alliance says now, restaurants all over the state are participating.

"Some restaurants that we've talked to, they've had their biggest nights, they grossed the most money from that event, so it's obviously something that we're not out her in a vacuum promoting this, it's something that consumers are wanting too," Weeks says.

A survey from the National Restaurant Association proves it.
In it's 2013 "What's Hot List" it found, the number one thing people want from restaurants is local meat.
Next on the list is local produce. 

Jon Cherniss runs Blue Moon Farm. It's been in Urbana since 1995. 
"We grow certified organize vegetables and sell them at the Urbana Farmer's Market, local restaurants, and local stores.

Cherniss says, the more restaurants and businesses that use local foods, the more control customers have.
"My customers can say 'We want these types of tomatoes that taste this way, or we want them grown with these practices,' by their buying decisions and also their communication with us," Cherniss says.

So from Cherniss' farm to Big Grove's tables, the local foods boom is having a ripple effect that's changing how people decide where to eat in Illinois.

Buying local does come at a cost, but Chef Gorin calls that cost deceiving. 
She says it may look like they're spending more on food up front, but explains that local foods stay fresher longer, which can actually help their bottom line.

If you'd like to learn more about restaurants that participate in the local flavors program, or get connected with local producers, visit the website for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

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