I have listed two local food charity events this month on my Events page. One is on March 29th host by Seva in Ann Arbor, a vegetarian restaurant landmark. The other is at The Grange Kitchen and Bar on March 30th. Both will donate a portion of the nights proceeds to benefit a Local Food organization. The Grange is donating to Growing Hope. These are starting to become ongoing events, and an opportunity to support local food institutions, while having a great meal.
Lake Perch at the Grange Kitchen and Bar
I wrote a post a few months ago about how charity/fundraiser dinners say in the form of secret supper clubs like Bona Sera, privately hosted tasting menu events like Tammy’s Tastings, and “Breakfast Clubs,” like fridays@selma provide an opportunity to enjoy locally sourced prepared meals. My hope was that other local food cooks would take up the call and start more of these local food venues to create a grassroots locally sourced and prepared meals. The idea was to transform our kitchen tables into micro, one time or ongoing, local food restaurants.
But I never thought about the obvious, which is why not also ask an already established restaurant to host a charity meal night? The Grange Kitchen and Bar for example donates 10% of their Tuesday sales to a local food organization.
"Pig's Head appetizer at the Grange Kitchen and Bar
I love this idea for a few reasons. For one it does not take that much extra work in order to set these events up. A simple posting on the restaurants web site and say an announcement by the organization receiving the charity is about all the promotion that is needed.
The other factor is the price. Many charity/fundraiser meals tend to be on the pricy side, and for good reason. The idea is to raise money, and in order to do that expenses and more have to be met in order to collect funds for donation. Some of these local meals can range from $50-$150 or up to $500, which can price me out of these dinners especially if I want to bring Emily along.
I try to attend a few of these events a year to have a special food experience, but more often I do not because of price. I still regret being priced out of the Portland Oregon Farmers Market dinner every year when I lived there.
I do not want to be negative about these fundraising dinners. There are plenty of people who can afford to attend these dinners, and provide their yearly charitable donation dollars with their attendance. And the meals at Tammy’s, Bona Sera and fridays@selma are better than what can be found at even the best restaurant, and the money collected goes to worthy causes.
What stands out with the Restaurant charity/fundraiser dinner model for me is the minimal/average cost. A meal at Seva can run $10-20 per person, and at the Grange $20-35 for say an entree. I feel these price ranges may open up more people to attend a charity/fundraiser dining event. There may be less money raised per diner, but there may be more diners participating to perhaps equal things out.
Spicy Fried Chick Pea appetizer at Grange Kitchen and Bar
I see the restaurant charity/fundraiser dinners movement as a great small start win for the local food movement. I tend to think of the BIG WIN like an entirely locally sourced restaurant, bigger farmers markets, or better yet a locally sourced region restaurant chain. But in thinking of the big win, I over look the small win like a restaurant hosting a once a month locally sourced menu, or even just featuring a locally sourced weekend dinner special.
Asking a restaurant or a chef to go all/mostly local can be an overwhelming proposition. But asking a chef to take on a locally sourced menu for a night can be a fun challenge, and one which an adventurous chef may take on. And if a local food night is successful and supported, the chef might do it again, even if they are not known as a local food place.
In other words, just about any independent restaurant from large or small, high end or burger/sandwich joint, can be a potential venue for the local food movement charity/fundraiser meal, or at least feature a local menu item like a local sandwich special, or salad.
The big local push in Ann Arbor is for a %10 locally sourced food goal (see 10 percent Washtenaw) A large portion of food is eaten out, so in order to reach this goal, I feel that we will need to get more restaurants to offer some locally sourced food. The charity/fundraiser dinner event can be a way to convince other independent food service establishments to get a taste for going local, while supporting local food/garden organizations. These venues could create a larger demand for locally sourced foods, which in turn will motivate the creation of more locally sourced food suppliers.