BRATTLEBORO -- Peggy Coty says she can taste the difference.
Coty, a Thompson House resident who grew up in Framingham, Mass., with a large backyard garden, said that since the cooks at Thompson House have been introducing more local produce, the meals have been getting better.
"The cherry tomatoes taste like they were just picked," she said Wednesday after she was served a plate of food that was almost 100-percent local. "It's worth the extra effort."
The residents and staff members at Thompson House were served a buffet lunch Wednesday that featured local fruits and vegetables that had been harvested at Windham County farms and orchards.
Briana Bourne, the chef manager for Fitz Vogt at Thompson House toured a number of area farms last month and has been increasing her purchases from the Windham Farm and Food Network.
Bourne said there are many reasons why she wants to bring more local food in, and listening to residents like Coty, she said, confirms one of the most important motivations.
"These folks here, they grew up eating food like this," she said. "This is how they were brought up."
Bourne said that since she has taken over as Chef Manager five months ago she has been phasing out as much premade food as possible and bringing in more local food.
The money she is saving by not purchasing frozen meatballs and prepared cheese cakes can go into local carrots, apples and lettuce.
The food came from Commonwealth Dairy, Dutton Berry Farm, Scott Farm, New Leaf CSA, Walker Farm, Westminster Organics, Old Athens Farm, High Meadows, Green Mountain Orchards, Lilac Farm and Hidden Maple Springs.
Orly Munzing, executive director of Strolling of the Heifers, visits her mother, who is living at Thompson House, and she said the food has been noticeably different since Bourne has been working to bring more local food in.
"We notice it. It looks different and tastes different," she said. "It has made the meals special."
Bourne said the Windham Farm and Food Network makes it easy to stay up to date on the local food that is available and she can plan out her menu around the food that is fresh.
"Meals are important here," she said. "It is much more than just a time to get something to eat."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.