Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), which pioneered the use of (and is the only fast food chain to do so) organic, locally grown ingredients in fast food, has created a nonprofit foundation to support sustainable farming practices.
The new Chipotle Cultivate Foundation says it will support organizations for family farms; food education programs for younger generations; and ranchers and farmers who are developing more sustainable practices.
Chipotle, which has 1,100 restaurants nationwide, has been serving locally, organically grown produce in its restaurants since 2008. It says it will use over 10 million pounds of fruits and vegetables grown within 350 miles of the restaurants where it will be served - raising the bar from its goal of 5 million pounds in 2010. It expects to double its use of locally grown produce this year. It's also installing solar on its stores.
Chipotle has a history of supporting causes related to improving the way people eat. Over the last two years, the company has donated more than $2 million to philanthropic organizations, with much of that benefiting groups that are working to improve some element of the food system, including Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, The Nature Conservancy, FamilyFarmed.org, The Lunch Box, and the Niman Ranch Scholarship Fund, among many others.
"For more than a decade, we have been working to improve the nation's food supply by finding more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use in our restaurants," says Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. "By creating the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, we are extending our reach beyond our restaurants and will be supporting organizations and people that are working to improve individual family farms, animals and the environment, and youth and education programs."
In October, Chipotle will host "Cultivate Chicago," its first one-day festival combining music, art and food.
"We're bringing together farmers, chefs, thought leaders, artisans and musicians on a journey that not only celebrates wholesome food, but that also champions the like-minded people who share our vision to create a better food supply and a more sustainable future," Ells says.
Cultivate Chicago is intended to get people thinking and talking about food and food issues, the company says. Attendees will have the opportunity to sample and purchase food crafted by local artisans, while a beer garden will include craft ales and organic wines available for tasting. Two separate stages will host rock stars of the culinary world as they demonstrate different techniques as well as share their knowledge and love of sustainable food preparation.
Celebrity chefs Richard Blais (The Spence/Atlanta), Michael Chiarello (Bottega and NapaStyle/Yountville, Calif.), Amanda Freitag (Food Network/New York), and Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto/New York), as well as Chicago favorites Paul Kahan (Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star/Chicago), Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano/Chicago), Bruce Sherman (North Pond/Chicago), and Paul Virant (vie and Perennial Virant/Chicago) will be cooking, speaking and conducting demonstrations throughout the day.
Admission to the festival is free and Chipotle says it intends to host similar events in other cities as well.
Chipotle was on the SB20 for several years - the World's Top Sustainable Stocks
- produced by SustainableBusiness.com, for its leadership in sourcing organically raised beef, chicken, pork, beans, and vegetables.