Local Food Audit

“Audit”…it’s not a particularly inviting word. The taxman has put a real damper on the concept. So, when we tell you we’re not only excited, but thrilled by the idea of self-auditing ourselves, try to stick with us for a moment. We’ll do our best to keep it interesting…

It turns out this is our 9th annual local food audit. When we first started this, we bought just over 50% of our food locally. Over the years, we’ve proudly been able to increase that number through more direct planning with farmers as they start to plant, while finding affordable and scalable local products to replace conventional options.

We’re happy to report that this year, we’ve bested all of our previous years’ performance. We’re also stoked to have run the numbers of Montpelier, Burlington Waterfront, and our new Hanover, NH outpost separately. Topping the list, the Montpelier Mini-Skinny clocked in with a hefty 76.27% of local food purchases, which just so happens to be a record for all of Pancakia. At 74%, our newest location in Hanover also outperformed any previous year’s records. And, just barely edging out their own performance from 2015, our original restaurant on the Burlington waterfront weighed in with a respectable 71.78% of our food for the month having been bought locally.

And now, how about a round of “perhaps you’re asking?!?”

Perhaps you’re asking: “how do you define ‘local’?” Good question! Transparency is so important especially when there is no official definition of ‘local food’ and no certifying agency. For example, “Vermont plus 35 miles” is pretty broad for Burlington when Montreal is closer to it than Brattleboro. Also, we all certainly love our craft beers, but few of their ingredients are sourced locally. Is that local? At the Skinny, we use the acronym “S.C.E.N.E.” (Security, Community, Economy, Nutrition and Environment) to identify five primary benefits of buying local. When in doubt about whether an ingredient counts as ‘local’, we measure said ingredient against this acronym “S.C.E.N.E.” Of course, mesclun mix from a farm up the road is local. But we also count locally brewed beers, roasted coffee beans and other value added products produced in the region too all of which contribute to the local economy, community, perhaps security and environment too.

Perhaps you’re asking: “why do some of our locations perform better than others?” It turns out different folks from different towns have slightly different tastes. We may sell more of one product in one town and another in the next. As a result, our “product mix” is different each month. As some crepes are more locally-sourced than others, that alone will lead to a difference between locations. Especially as we extend to regions a bit further away, the availability of local products is constantly changing based on who’s growing it and weather patterns.

Perhaps you’re asking: “why aren’t 100% of your purchases local?” Our goal has never been to be 100% local. Our goal is to buy as much local food as possible. In order to do that, we need to keep the volume UP, which means we need to keep the food affordable enough for folks to eat on a regular basis, which means we need to occasionally source ingredients that aren’t local. Also, people really like Nutella, strawberries, bananas and avocados.

Perhaps you’re asking: “who cares”? We do. Were we to maintain this average throughout the year, it means we spend over $2,000,000 a year into the local food economy, about 8x as much as we bought locally when we first started. In an era where a butterfly bats its economic wings in China and everyone’s pensions plummet, we take comfort and pride in keeping our cash right here in Vermont.