Sourcing & Purchasing

Our sourcing and purchasing program FARMSTEAD™ allows us to work collaboratively with local and regional growers, producers and food hubs who typically experience limited access to extended markets. Through our proprietary FARMSTEAD™ program, we partner with 70 farms, food hubs and farmers markets across nine states, and our program is still growing! Creative Dining supports local agriculture and gives small, family-owned producers the ability to market their meats, cheeses, and produce. Following safe and fair rules of engagement, we leverage our direct purchasing program so that our chefs can use the freshest, locally grown ingredients.

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Direct Trade to Farmer

We choose our food suppliers with great care. Our FARMSTEAD™ partners include family-owned and small co-operative growers operating as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and direct farm-to-institution sellers. Food safety is of critical importance to our organization and operations, so developing a secure supply chain is vital to our operations. All potential vendors or suppliers, regardless of size, must be able to demonstrate the ability to deliver safe products to Creative Dining Services.

Our chefs seek to source 20% of their produce, cheeses, meats and more from within 150 miles of each of our kitchens. Fresh, local ingredients mean better-tasting food. Crafting seasonal menus both excites our chefs and educates our diners on the health benefits of eating different foods at different times of the year.

Food Hubs

Food hubs act as a centralized location for local and regional producers, providing smaller farmers and growers with greater access to larger markets for their products. They can offer substantial support to those smaller producers where necessary in areas like transportation, storage and even marketing. By partnering with our chosen food hubs, we provide our clients with reliable, high-quality local and regional produce to support health-driven, plant-forward menu options.

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)

In short, by collaborating with CSAs, Creative Dining purchases consumables, like produce, from farmers prior to the planting season. By paying for this produce in advance, we can secure a wide variety of in-season produce at its freshest point. Not only does this practice allow us to provide diners with the freshest food possible, but provides small growers with a market commitment and literally “seed money,” ensuring the sustainability of small growers and their importance in the food supply.

Farmers Markets

A popular format for smaller local farmers, farmers markets are an excellent way for our chefs and other staff to get to know our local producers better and meet with them face-to-face. Similar to CSAs, purchasing from farmers markets offers an opportunity to buy amazing seasonal produce fresh from the farm while directly supporting local farmers and economies.

Purchasing Standards

Our food purchasing standards are designed to ensure all products meet the high-quality standards you and your diners have come to expect.

Minimum Grading Requirements (USDA Grades)

Creative Dining Services has created high standards for all our food purchasing. We require, at a minimum, that all of our meats, dairy (such as butter, eggs, cheese), fish and seafood, fresh fruits and produce operate under a USDA inspection program, bearing the appropriate seal of USDA #1, Prime and Choice, or Grade A. All food products must be sound and sanitary on delivery, with no preservatives, tenderizers or coloring agents added to any fresh meat. 

Animal Welfare Policy

Our approach to responsible sourcing includes a commitment to using only humanely-produced animal products. Our policies cover a range of animal welfare issues, and we continually assess industry progress, working with our supply partners to achieve our animal welfare goals.

We also recognize the health, environmental and economic benefits of vegetable-centric cuisine, which is why we’re working with the Humane Society of the United States and have signed the Forward Food Pledge to expand and measure our programming in the menuing of non-animal products. We announced our support of the Better Chicken Commitment in 2017 and have already made much progress. We look forward to publishing a detailed roadmap with incremental goals by the end of 2024.

Learn More about Our Animal Welfare Policy

Animal Welfare Goals Update – November 2023