TYLER (KYTX) - The East Texas Community Food Coalition is launching the "Farm to Fork" project.
The goal is to put farmers in touch with local food service professionals. That means chefs, restaurant owners, schools and more. Those with the food coalition say there are endless benefits to putting local food on the menu. And they say, so far, the response to the project has been great.
"We've got some basil, got some rosemary. We've got mint right on the backside there...."
Mundo Villapudua has a garden growing right in front of his restaurant, Villa Montez. He says using fresh ingredients goes back to his family roots.
"It comes as second nature to us. We grew up picking our own tomatoes from our own garden."
Today, he's still picking produce and serving it up to his customers.
"Coming down and just grabbing something so fresh..."
East Texas Community Food Coalition founder Carmen Sosa hopes more restaurant owners adopt the "farm to fork" concept.
"We just don't think about what is behind the food on our plate." she says. "Were there fair wages involved? Living wages behind the labor that picked the produce? The animal welfare- you get into all sorts of environmental and social issues."
She says buying local food cuts down on what's called a "carbon footprint."
"The gas, the transportation, the freight involved in it, the labor behind it, the packaging materials to get it to arrive safely. It's just a huge impact."
And, Villapudua says fresh food just tastes better.
"We can tell a difference from when we order basil in a bag that's been circulating from one truck to a warehouse to another truck to another warehouse, versus coming out here early in the morning, and snipping the basil and bringing it in."
Customers like Pamela Greer and Sonya York say they also notice the difference.
"The flavor is completely different."
They say the taste of fresh, local food makes paying to eat out worth the cost.
Villa Montez is just one of the restaurants taking an interest in the farm to fork project. Sosa says other restaurant owners and farmers are really excited to get the ball rolling on this.
Sosa says the fall crops are just starting to come in. So, she says they're hoping within a month or so, you'll start seeing some more local ingredients on menus.