For as many strides as the food industry has made toward sustainability — toward supporting farmers who raise food in environmentally friendly ways and treat employees fairly — one thing has been lacking: accountability. Awareness of sustainability is certainly at an all-time high, but without accountability, without making sure that those who claim they’re being responsible are actually doing so, the term has become stretched and adopted by myriad food producers to market themselves and not to fundamentally change the way we grow, cultivate and eat food.
Enter Good Food 100 Restaurants. Now in its third year, Good Food 100 celebrates the chefs and restaurants that are proving their commitment to sustainable food systems. And its using quantifiable metrics to show just how these restaurants are walking the walk.
“Our goal is to promote transparency and empower people to be aware of where their food is coming from while recognizing the chefs and restaurants who are consciously committed to building a better food system,” said Sara Brito, co-founder and president of Good Food Media Network, which oversees the Good Food 100 Restaurants list, in a statement. “Every menu choice and good food purchase that chefs and restaurants make affects each link in our food chain as well as state, regional and national economies.”
Boulder County is well-represented on this year’s list. Basta, Blackbelly, the Boulder Valley School District School Food Project, Corrida, Flagstaff House, Fresh Thymes, Next Door, Santo, Snooze, The Kitchen and the University of Colorado Boulder Campus Dining Services all made the list. Nearby notable restaurants on the list include Annette, Cart-Driver, Euclid Hall, Root Down and Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe.
Restaurant owners and chefs apply to be included on the list (for no fee) and supply Good Foods 100 with purchase orders, verified by a third party, to indicate how much of their food is “good” food.
What’s “good” food?
“Good food is about more than just taste,” the organization states. “Good food is good for every link in the food chain: the environment; plants and animals; farmers, ranchers and fishermen; purveyors; restaurants; and eaters.”
Food purchases are broken out into six categories: bread, flour, legumes and grains; dairy and eggs; fish and seafood; meat and poultry; fruits and vegetables; and other, including oils, condiments, spices and more. Within those categories, Good Food 100 looks to see that certain criteria are met. For instance, it asks that bread, flour, legumes and grains are certified organic and raised via sustainable agricultural practices. It looks to ensure that meat, poultry, dairy and eggs are raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones, cages or confinement. And it looks for fish and seafood that is wild-caught or sustainably farmed and includes only species in good standing on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list, the industry standard for sustainable seafood.
Restaurants can get up to six links — a link for each food category where sustainable standards are met. All the Boulder County restaurants and BVSD received either five or six links.
Another component of the Good Food 100 Restaurants list is an industry impact analysis done by CU’s Leeds School of Business that quantifies the costs and benefits of sourcing good food.
The research found that the $66.3 million spent on good food raised in the U.S. and purchased by the participating restaurants had a $213.5-million impact on the broader national good food economy. Of the six food categories, restaurants reported the highest number of good food purchases in the seafood and meat categories.
The culled data also includes statistics about business and labor practices. For instance, greater than 93% of participating restaurants said recycling and using eco-friendly paper products “were a part of their sustainable practices.” Three out of four restaurants composted, cleaned with eco-friendly products and tracked food waste. And 78% said they offer access to health insurance to their employees.
The drawback to the Good Food 100 Restaurants list is that it requires restaurants to participate — it can’t track the broader trends throughout the industry because it doesn’t have access to purchase orders from every restaurant. But the hope is that if a restaurant claims to be sustainable and committed to good environmental and business practices, then it will seek out a Good Food 100 certification, and that consumers who care about what the list celebrates will seek out restaurants that have its seal of approval. It’s broad culture change Good Food 100 is after, which happens with growing participation in coming years and more partnerships with industry leaders like the James Beard Foundation, which is new in 2019.
“Be it food waste, climate change, worker welfare, our food system needs an overhaul starting from production all the way to consumption,” Brito said. “The time to act is now, and we are proud to be a part of this cultural and culinary conversation.”
For the full list, go to goodfood100restaurants.org.