FOOD- THE DISH- Local food hubbub: Can a non-profit market make it?
Update 2/6/09: The Board of Supervisors appears to have taken the ATTA's letter to heart. On Wednesday, the BoS declined to give Collier and Vrooman the $80,000 grant for the local food hub. Said Supervisor Dennis Rooker, "the board made it clear that they do not want to be in the position of acting like a venture capital fund to look at start up companies and putting tax payer dollars into private start up companies."
"We can't let this first set back stop our efforts," writes Collier on the Local Food Hub blog. "But the reality is, this project won't happen without funding. It won't happen without at least $250K in start-up money. If funding doesn't come in the next month, the project won't happen this year and momentum, qualified staff and our energy may be lost."
If Kate Collier of Feast! and her partner Marisa Vrooman, a UVA alum and former director of development for the Virginia Film Festival, can raise an estimated $325,000 in start-up funds, we could have a new non-profit "local food hub" that will make it easier for local farmers to distribute their produce to local food lovers by May. The two have already received $10,000 in economic development funding from Nelson County, and recently requested $80,000 in Economic Opportunity Funds from Albemarle County.
"Their response was positive," says Collier, "but they want to see more financial data before making a decision."
Currently, locally produced food is distributed via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers' markets, and direct farm sales, but Collier and Vrooman want to build a licensed wholesale facility that will purchase goods from local farmers, no matter how big or how small they are.
However, it appears that some free-marketers are not too thrilled about the non-profit idea.
In a February 3 letter to the County Supervisors, members of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance (ATTA), a tax watchdog group formed in 2007, opposed the funding of the food hub.
"ATTA believes that the free enterprise system is the most effective and efficient system in the world at satisfying human needs," the letter states, continuing, "while ATTA believes the goal to be laudable, it objects to the ill-prepared business plan, which does not thoroughly evaluate the risks and opportunities inherent in the proposed endeavor."
Basically, the Alliance believes the food hub couldn't possibly make any money. So why should tax payers throw money at it? The Alliance also objected to the non-profit, manager-run model, saying "nothing motivates a fledgling business operator more than the risk of personal loss."
But, of course, nothing motivates foodies more than the rallying cry "buy fresh, buy local." Stay tuned as The Local Food Hub makes its attempt to get up and running.
Tough times special at Clifton
If you've ever wanted to dine with a group of friends at the renown Clifton Inn without busting the bank, nows your chance. From now through the end of March, the folks at Clifton are offering what they call a "recession proof code 4-4-2 special."
Basically, you can bring a group of four and eat for the price of two. But the math doesn't stop there! In addition, groups of five and six can eat for the price of three and groups of seven can eat for the price of 4. The menu for the promotion will be a 3-course Chef's Choice with options available for each course, but does not include drinks.
"Especially in these times, it is important for people to get together with friends and share great experiences," say Clifton General Manager Niall Reid. "A dinner at Clifton is one of the best experiences Charlottesville has to offer, and we thought this was a great way share it with lovers of fine food and great times."
Fellini's supports the Big Read
Okay, so it's not Oprah, but the VFH Center for the Book with Virginia First Lady Anne Holton are asking Virginians to read Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God this spring. It's all part of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to get folks reading. And on Wednesday, February 11, Fellini's #9 is getting in on the literary action. The Acme Swing Manufacturing Company, the wacky local band that dishes out music of the '30s and '40s, will celebrate the music associated with the Harlem Renaissance at the downtown eatery. The event is being co-sponsored by the Charlottesville Jazz Society and starts at 6:30pm. So scat on over there!
What's on TAP?
In March, some local restaurants could be asking you to pay $1 dollar for a glass of water. What's next? Fifty-cents for a napkin? Dish knows times are tough, but...not as tough as food borne can be on kids.
Yes, we were just kidding–sort of. You may be asked to pay $1 for water in March, but it will be going to a good cause. It's all part of the TAP Project, which takes place during World Water Week March 22-28. In a nutshell, local participating restaurants will encourage diners to pay $1 for the glass of tap water that they normally enjoy for free. The money raised will go to support UNICEF clean drinking water projects around the world.
"I think this is a brilliant project to help solve the leading preventable cause of childhood death worldwide," says local organizer Gwen Goodkin. "Water borne illnesses kill 4,200 children each day. Each dollar contributed provides clean drinking water for one child for 40 days, or 40 children for 1 day."
In the next few weeks, Goodkins plans to encourage as many local restaurants to participate. "It's great publicity for the restaurants," she says, " and I think that Charlottesville residents will really support the project if they know about it."
So whata ya say restaurant owners? To find out more about the TAP Project you can visit their website at www.tapproject.org or give Godkins a call at 984-4649.