June 22nd, 2024

Alberta on the Plate festival celebrating local food

By Tim Kalinowski on July 20, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

Alberta on the Plate is holding its annual Dine Around Festival on August 6-15 in conjunction with Alberta Local Food Week and Open Farm Days. The marketing organization, which seeks to give a boost to local food producers and the restaurants who serve local food products, hopes to give Albertans a local food dining event to savour.
“Our main goal is to help create a more sustainable, local food economy, and help restaurants and farms to connect, and really enhance the relationships they have so we have more restaurants using our local ingredients,” says Alberta on the Plate co-founder Rheannon Green. “We have such amazing Alberta products across the province, and pretty much anything you could want.”
This year’s Dine Around Festival features 200 local food producers and 88 local restaurants and food venues in 27 communities across the province, including Umami Shop in Lethbridge.
Green hopes the event will inspire residents in participating communities and surrounding areas to think more about the impact their dollar can have when directed toward shopping more often for local food.
“It’s a really tricky balance, but there is absolutely some more cost-effective products and pieces out there,” she says, acknowledging sometimes families have a limited income for buying local foods which can cost more in certain instances. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A lot of times people think if I want to support these local farms, I have to buy everything from them all the time, but that is just not the case. Every little bit helps. So maybe you head out to the local farmers market and buy a bunch of carrots, and maybe the next week you go and buy some beets. Or decide you are going to splurge and buy those (premium) steaks this week.
“It doesn’t have to be a large volume of purchasing on the regular for it to still have that incredible impact on our local economy. Maybe it is one product a week, maybe it is one product a month, whatever is sustainable and makes sense for your budget.”
In this respect, the Dine Around Festival allows those coming out to try new products and sample a wide variety of local foods to see what gets them excited.
“It is that opportunity for customers to come out and try something that they might not have tried,” Green says, “and because we are talking about the farms, and we are talking about the producers being featured on each of these menus– not only are they getting to try a restaurant or establishment they have never been to before, they are also getting a chance to try some of the local ingredients in that setting.”
Green says another aspect helping give some momentum to this year’s Dine Around Festival and more generally Alberta on the Plate, which showcases local food providers all year round, has been the fact that many Alberta residents are starting to understand how vulnerable international food supply chains can be due to the effects of larger market forces at work. This, says Green, is seen more clearly during big impact events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Which, she says, in many respects saw more people looking for local options when certain supplies began to run short. It also jolted more people into turning to local food subscription services with local producers to stabilize their food supply, and fostered more multi-family buying on things like locally sourced beef to help save costs.
“Suddenly with borders closing and all of that stuff,” she says, “those typical produce items and things we are used to seeing come in weren’t able to get here at the same time, and in the same quantities, we were used to seeing; so people started to look elsewhere and they started to recognize and realize the amazing stuff that Alberta grows and raises throughout our year.”
To see a complete list of all participating Dine Around Festival restaurants and producers visit http://www.albertaontheplate.com.

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