As the coronavirus pandemic continues, local food purveyors in the St. Louis area including retailers, farms, CSAs, farmers' markets and restaurants are ramping up efforts to serve customers.
Known & Grown, a nonprofit program of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment that promotes sustainable farming in the region, is educating the public about where to get local food during the pandemic. The organization has a spreadsheet available on its homepage that shows where you can buy local produce.
“It’s been incredible to see the ingenuity, community and passion that’s come from the food community in the past 24 hours. It’s been a moving experience. This food community is so supportive of each other. If one of us hurts, all of us are hurting. By buying local, you’re contributing to a community that makes St. Louis the vibrant place it is,” Known & Grown manager Jenn DeRose says.
The program works with a network of farmers who adhere to certain environmentally-responsible farming practices.
Retailers such as Local Harvest, City Greens Market, BEAST Butcher & Block, Mac’s Local Buys and Quincy, Illinois-based Grown n Gathered are offering a curbside pickup option for people in search of fresh, local food. Farms in the St. Louis region are trying different techniques, with some offering a buy-off-the-farm option, some offering free delivery and others getting even more creative with their efforts.
EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, is hosting a pay-what-you-can drive through this Sat., March 21 at its farm. Stuart Farm, which is based in Gerald, Missouri, is offering pop-up deliveries and gift certificates for its meat products.
Farmers' markets, once a primary source of local food, are finding new ways to reach customers amid a health crisis that calls for social distancing. Tower Grover Farmers’ Market, the largest farmers' market in St. Louis, is working with its farmers and food broker Eat Here St. Louis to make home deliveries this Saturday. The market is also offering drive-thru pickup. Customers can browse produce on the market's ordering website and pay in advance with a credit card or ACH.
Restaurants are also getting in on the effort. Caterer and Sunday brunch restaurant Seed Sprout Spoon is offering meal delivery services with some ingredients sourced from Charleston Power Family Garden and Three Springs Farm.
Many restaurants affiliated with local growers offer curbside pickup. Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., which sources ingredients from Bellews Creek Farm and Such and Such Farm, is offering curbside pickup with beer and food specials. Farmhaus, which also works with Bellews Creek Farm, is offering curbside and delivery options.
Popular South County breakfast spot Yolklore, which works with Charleston Power Family Garden and Such and Such Farm, is offering drive-thru options for customers.
Although there’s never a wrong time to eat locally, now is a perfect time to explore local options, DeRose says. Supporting local producers means more money goes back into the community. Food from local farmers also touches less hands, so there are fewer opportunities for contamination. Additionally, food that has traveled less distance to get to one’s plate is more nutritious and can help support a healthy immune system.
“This is a moment where people have a real opportunity to change their behavior for the better. It’s always about supporting local business, but this highlights it,” DeRose says. “It’s a moment that’s awful and tragic and scary, but there are little hints of beauty and joy during the crisis. Eating locally is more than what you do for you; it’s what you do for the community.”