IDAHO — Food and beverage businesses have been hit harder than most by the pandemic. According to the National Restaurant Association over 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed in 2020.
Now, one local organization, FARE Idaho, is helping restaurants, bars, and farmers rebound from the pandemic.
“We are all one big food framework and I think we need to work together to help each other out,” Katie Baker, FARE Idaho Executive Director, said.
FARE stands for Food, Agriculture, Restaurant, and Beverage Establishments.
“We represent over 165 small food and beverage providers here in Idaho,” Baker said.
That includes family farms, independent restaurants, bars, and retailers, as well as food and beverage producers.
“We really represent anything from field to fork or field to glass,” Baker said.
The alliance was born as a result of the pandemic.
Prior to COVID-19, downtown areas across the state were bustling with people eating and drinking, but now, you can often find them nearly empty.
“From the farmers to the food and beverage providers to the independent retailers, they are all dealing with this crisis,” Baker said.
So farmers, ranchers, and restaurant owners decided to come together and create the first food and beverage trade group in Idaho to help improve the industry.
"We thought there was really an opportunity to come together and a new way of thinking about how can we improve and create a more resilient food system," Baker said. "And that is really the coming together with each other. It’s not staying in your silos talking amongst your peers. It's like how can we help each other.”
They advocate at a state and federal level, share ideas and come up with solutions to keep the industry thriving.
“We do sector-specific roundtables that allow people an opportunity to come together and coalesce and talk about what they are experiencing,” Baker said.
With much of their focus right now being on supporting local bars and restaurants
“When they are failing, it hurts every other industry," Baker said. "Local independent restaurants are buying from local farmers. They are buying from local craft brewers. They are buying from our Idaho wineries, so it is critical at this point to help them through this crisis.”
FARE says helping bridge the gap between our local food producers and our local markets means more of Idaho's farm products are being sold.
Any independently owned restaurant, bar, or farm can join their alliance.
The community can also get involved by becoming a Friend of FARE, but also by shopping, eating, and drinking locally.