Editor’s note: This story is part of the CDT’s Business Matters special section.
Locally sourced food options are increasing on the menus of some downtown State College restaurants, which could lead to economic growth around Centre County over the next three years, according to Vern Squier, president and CEO of the Chamber of Business and Industry Centre County.
Downtown State College has more than 70 restaurants that offer dine-in, take out or fast food options. Eleven of the restaurants advertise the use of locally sourced foods on their websites or menus. Food that is considered locally sourced is either grown or raised within the area.
State College is not the only area in the nation that is trending toward serving locally produced foods. Nationwide, 73 percent of casual-dining, 63 percent of fast-casual, 50 percent of family-dining and 35 percent of quick-serve restaurants plan to add locally soured items to their menus, according to the National Restaurant Association.
“The farm-to-table agricultural possibilities are on the rise and will continue to be on the rise,” Squier said. “But is the demand going to support local production operations such as farms or wineries?”
Squier said the hope is the farms around the area will experience a demand increase because of the farm-to-table trend, which could necessitate larger growing operations.
“That’s the support structures that are attractive to the area,” Squier said. “If the Penns Valley area, for example, can supply downtown restaurants, that might open opportunities for employee expansion in those areas, which would create jobs.”
With most trends, sustainability can become and issue, but according to George Arnold, executive director of the Downtown Improvement District, the farm-to-table food trend is expected to have longevity.
“I think it has staying power,” Arnold said. “The more we become aware of the health benefits of fresh vegetables and produce, the demand for healthy options will continue to grow as will the support for farmers and locally sourced restaurants.”