Advocates for locally produced foods take cause online

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Every spring the ILLINOIS STEWARDSHIP ALLIANCE takes advocates for locally produced foods and the farmers who grow them to the Illinois State Capitol to lobby for the industry.

But this year the group is taking their cause online — due to the statehouse being closed to public gatherings amid efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“It was an easy choice, given the circumstances,” Alliance executive director Liz Moran Stelk said of the Food to Farm Lobby Day scheduled for Thursday being converted into a virtual gathering.

“We want to talk to lawmakers but the Capitol is closed.”

Postponing the lobby day wasn’t an option, Stelk said. Legislators continue to work on a budget proposal, despite the statehouse closure, and the Alliance is keen to secure funding for two programs — conservation incentives for farmers adopting sustainable practices and the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund.

The latter would provide a statewide funding source for matching grants for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program sales at farmers markets.

ISA emails announcing the pivot from marching on the Capitol to an online blitz read, “You can make an impact from wherever you are to encourage lawmakers to support family farmers, grow local food businesses and build healthier, more resilient communities.”

The free event will be held on Zoom — the cloud-based video conferencing service — from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Register at https://ift.tt/3arCSnh.

Participants will be greeted by Illinois Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield), hear from farmers and learn how to contact state legislators, as well as a script for making effective phone calls.

Those who make calls will be entered for a virtual door prize featuring local food donations.

Stelk said early registration already shows a stronger attendance than previous years, drawing participants from throughout Illinois to the online, streamlined lobby day. Early response led the ISA to reserve a Zoom room capable of up to 500 participants, she said.

That is a sizable enough increase to consider more virtual gathering, even after social distancing is a thing of the past.

“There’s going to be a huge change in how people use technology. I’m excited about seeing possibilities on how technology can make us a stronger community,” Stelk said, but added, she doesn’t see virtual lobbying replacing old fashioned, mass marches on the statehouse.

“There’s no replacing real live showing up, having visibility in front of lawmakers.”

 

LET’S MAKE DINNER has seen an uptick in demand for its prepared meals since shelter-at-home orders went into effect.

Now the Springfield business is adding an essential produce pack for consumers wanting to keep their pantries stocked while limiting exposure.

“A lot of our customers are older and didn’t want to go to the store. They were asking us for produce,” owner Tami Frye said of the addition. “We’re just trying to help keep everyone healthy and you need your veggies to stay healthy.”

The $15 package includes a head of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, half-pound of asparagus, two potatoes and one-pound each of carrots and broccoli.

Orders must be placed by noon on Mondays. Available Tuesday afternoon for delivery or pickup at the 2943 W. White Oaks Drive store.

 

Workers in the dining industry have been hit hard with restrictions limiting public gatherings aimed at curtailing the pandemic’s spread. But such measures haven’t meant job losses in all sectors of the industry.

DOMINO’S PIZZA announced this week plans to hire an additional 200 workers throughout the Greater Champaign and Springfield areas to meet increased consumer demand.

“Stores across this area are continuing to provide pizza to those who are looking for a delicious, hot meal and at times like this, staffing is critical,” said Mark Ratterman, CEO for the St. Louis-based MBR Management, franchise operator of the Springfield locations.

“We want to make sure we’re not only providing food to people, but also delivering opportunity to those who are looking for work.”

Domino’s offers carryout and contactless delivery options.

The global pizza chain has stores in Springfield at 2660 S. Fifth St., 544 W. Jefferson St. and 3100 W. Iles Ave.

 

Normally, I’m asking area restaurants to send me their Easter specials by now. But that request seems out-of-step with dine-in restrictions in place through Monday — and Gov. Pritzker not ruling out an extension. So for now, it will be a wait-and-see whether there will be an Easter list this year.

 

The A La Carte column highlights restaurant openings, closing, renovations and relocations, as well as personnel changes and business news. Natalie Morris can be reached at 737-7254 or by email at natalie.sjr@gmail.com.

 

 

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via The State Journal-Register

March 29, 2020 at 09:28AM

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