Restaurants aim for more fresh, local items on menu - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Restaurants aim for more fresh, local items on menu

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

During the summer, it's great to get a taste of fresh produce.  Now, some area restaurants are making an effort to include more fresh items grown locally on the menu.   

Gordon Murray-John is using retirement as a chance to garden.  But his green thumb has produced so much fresh food, he's able to sell fresh veggies to restaurants.

"I like to think that we're exposing people to a greater variety of vegetables, some of the old fashioned vegetables like rutabaga, kale, which are all really nutritious vegetables.  And we need to, I think as a nation, eat more healthily," said Murray-John.

Murray-John is one of several farmers who attended a meeting hosted by the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo Tuesday.  The casino recently began offering fresh foods grown by local farmers at its restaurants.  Now it's looking to expand the program, by partnering with more local producers to offer additional fresh, local items.

"If you think about the farming community in general and what Iowa produces, from pork to the vegetable season that is absolutely wonderful, the corn--you can't beat the opportunity to put those products on your restaurant operation," said Thomas Roberts, the Isle's senior director of hospitality.

While the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo is just starting its venture to offer more fresh, local items, other businesses and restaurants like Pablo's Mexican Grill in Cedar Falls have been working with local farmers for a few years now.

When you order a taco or burrito at Pablo's what goes inside likely comes from Iowa.

"At the height of the season, almost everything we have would be purchased locally.  Other than just produce, all of our steak comes from the Janesville Meat Locker and Gilbertville Locker.  And all the pork comes from White Marble Farms, which is out of Ottumwa, Iowa," said Lee Cronkhite with Pablo's Mexican Grill.

Cronkhite says the advantage to using local products is clear:  the quality just can't be beat.  With the casino now adding more fresh, local products—there's a good chance that some of the items you order at your favorite restaurant will go straight from an area garden to your dinner plate.

UNI coordinates the Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership, which helps businesses connect with farmers so they can offer more fresh, locally grown products.  The partnership puts out an annual food guide so you can learn which businesses participate.  You can find it by clicking here.

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