The YHA (Youth Hostels Association of England and Wales) is set to launch a new catering project enabling youth hostels to buy as much food as possible from local producers.

The Taste for Travel scheme will run in partnership with organic food lobby group the Soil Association and encourages the creation of links between farmers, food producers and the YHA.

It will take place in the northwest and southwest regions of England, where there are large concentrations of YHA youth hostels, thanks to a grant of nearly £220,000 (US$383,811) awarded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

“This is an extremely exciting project and the first time a large national organisation has made a concerted effort to source ingredients direct from local suppliers,” said project manager Col Rich.

“We are indebted to the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for the funding that will provide for a practitioner in each region to work closely with the Soil Association’s regional staff until January 2008

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“These will discover what produce is available in the locality and how we can best use it to develop new seasonal menus in our hostels,” Rich added.

Practitioners will negotiate price and delivery criteria, monitor quality and manage marketing campaigns.

They will also create storyboards for use in the hostels to explain the Taste for Travel concept to guests, demonstrating to them that much of the food on their table has been produced on neighbouring farms.

The aim is to ensure that 60% of all food served in hostels is sourced from local suppliers and that a tenth of that is organic.