In years past the MQT Local Food Fest ran for a single day and gave students and community members opportunities to meet the people behind the meals prepared for and by them daily. Much has changed since the 2019 event, and with safety as a priority, Alex Palzewicz, lead coordinator of the MQT Local Food Fest, co-founder, and NMU hospitality and management alumni, still wanted to continue the event.
“We don’t have any in-person events going on but we still wanted to stick to our mission. The big point of the event is to really rally around local producers whether it be the local farmers that are growing the food to those that are making food products in the Upper Peninsula and of course the folks that are bringing it to the tables from the chefs to the servers and everyone between,” Palzewicz said.
Without an in-person event, the people working for the local food fest decided to expand the event into several weeks of celebration for local food and restaurants. The local food fest began on Oct. 21 and will conclude on Nov. 14, but in the final week, local restaurants will be participating.
“On Nov. 9 we’re kicking off a locally-focused restaurant week with the downtown development of Marquette. You will see a way for folks to participate by trying locally-focused specials from different restaurants that week. You can go get some really great options. We are also encouraging anyone who is cooking from home using local [food] to use the hashtag #localfoodfest or to tag us in a photo of a dish they made that includes local ingredients, and they have an opportunity to win a prize,” Palzewicz said. “We’re encouraging people to follow our social media at MQTlocalfoodfest throughout Facebook and Instagram. There’s different things we’re doing with our social media like big announcements, sharing information about local businesses.”
In the past, the local food fest held a cooking competition which encouraged hospitality management alumni to return and compete. Unfortunately because of COVID-19 this portion of the event has been cancelled. Palzewicz still believes that this event has a powerful message that needs to be delivered despite the restrictions the pandemic has placed on it.
“I’ve worked in this industry a long time and there’s a lot of us and there’s not a whole lot of value or respect that comes with this. Even growing up my family was always like “when are you gonna get a real job?” The idea was to rally around each other and showcase the accomplishments we’ve made, but also to get other folks excited about the possibilities and career opportunities and I think to show the dynamic ways you can use your degree and be involved in the food system. Celebrate local and celebrate the industries that we work in and encourage, we’re still trying to do that.”
Students at NMU are encouraged to participate as this event aligns itself with what NMU students often believe in. Many of the organizers are also former NMU students themselves.
“I think the food fest has a lot of ideals associated with NMU like a focus on nature and a focus on sustainability. Part of it is in that local food segment how we are building a stronger food system but the other side is I think we’re challenging the hospitality industry which in the past has been and continues to be one of the most wasteful and one of the more troublesome when it comes to the environment,” Palzewicz said.
Learn more about the local food fest and how to participate at https://www.facebook.com/MQTLocalFoodFest/. Use #localfoodfest to participate in events and get involved.