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If you ain’t eating local/organic, when we go “out” to eat we’re usually just eating out of a Sysco truck.

I always crack up slash break down in tears when I see the above Sysco truck pulling in front of (or, more often, surreptiously/expeditiously behind) fancy, cool “organic and local whenever possible” restaurants in Boulder, Colorado.

Excerpt via Slate:

Some obvious food trends have helped Sysco’s rise to Wal-Mart-like dominance. In 1970, households spent 34 percent of their food budget on dining out, compared to almost 50 percent today. And as small, local farms have closed down to make way for strip malls, restaurants increasingly depend on regional and national food processors to supply them with basic ingredients. While Sysco has smartly capitalized on all of this as the middleman between individual food distributors and the kitchen door, it’s also earned the ire of gourmets, who portray the company as a leviathan that destroys local economies—and good taste.

Excerpt Via Creative Loafing:

…The products inside those brown boxes feed children in schools and grandparents in nursing homes. The trucks ship ingredients for value meals to our favorite fast food dives and deliver the makings of gourmet dinners to our four-star restaurants.

SYSCO — an acronym for Systems and Services Company — is North America’s largest food distribution company and has more of an impact on our food supply than nearly any other company in the country.

And the food distribution giant is only growing larger.

Chances are you have eaten something from a SYSCO truck. It would be hard not to. SYSCO provides more than 400,000 businesses with meat, produce, frozen food and an assortment of cooking basics like spices and oils.

It is the sole provider of supplies to Wendy’s fast food restaurants and the chain of Hilton hotels. Many hospitals and nursing homes order from the SYSCO catalog, as do elementary schools and state universities. Even a large number of high-end restaurants and bistros use SYSCO for at least basic supplies.

Exactly what these places order from SYSCO is harder to determine. The company does not publish its customer list and did not return calls for comment. Local restaurant owners and chefs are less than eager to provide details...for the rest, click here.

Just another reason to spend a little extra at the Farmers’ Market? Or will Sysco, like its cousin behemoth Wal-Mart, begin to green its ways, green its fleet, wake up to the food monoculture ways that will ultimately bite us all in the (obese) derriere?

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Andrew Armiger Mar 7, 2010 3:40am

Subsidies and economy of scale. Perhaps if wine grapes can be grown in CO then olives and many other things that currently are not might be, as well. It is a matter of voting with dollars for the local options that do exist, and thankfully several Boulder restaurants (Blues & Greens, Salt, The Kitchen, among others) do make a point of letting … See Morepatrons know that they do make a significant effort to source ingredients locally. A friend of mine ran a now-defunct restaurant for a couple of years in Boulder recently, Karma Cuisine, that made a point of sourcing local, organic ingredients (with plans to expand the business by buying land for greenhouses nearby), having seasonal menus to reflect growing season, and offering great vegetarian and vegan options. The support from consumers simply was not there for her to sustain the effort.

editorial dept elephant journal Oct 10, 2009 10:43pm

Wherever we eat, Sysco we are.

1500 miles. That's a long way for food to travel—it's awful tired when it gets to our plate! Shop local, support businesses you know, avoid GMOs and antibiotics…it's winwin.

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.