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    Chipotle's Road to Recovery Rooted in $10M Local Grower Initiative

    New program targets education, training for small farms

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    Chipotle's new Local Grower Support Initiative targets education and training for smaller farmers.

    The linchpin of Chipotle Mexican Grill's bid to build safer burritos following a series of foodborne outbreaks that erupted during the second half of 2015 is the creation of a new Local Grower Support Initiative that will funnel $10 million into improving food safety at the small farms that supply its food.

    Revealed at long last during a companywide meeting on Feb. 8 with its 60,000 employees – and 730,000 Twitter followers – the embattled Denver-based chain struck a conciliatory tone with the first tweet sent at the 11:00 a.m. kickoff, under the #ChipotleAllTeam hashtag. "Deeply sorry that some people became ill after eating Chipotle. Committed to make sure it won't happen again."

    Shortly thereafter came a commendatory tweet to the CDC from Chipotle founder and co-CEO Steve Ells, who thanked the agency "for their efforts and for declaring the E. coli outbreak over last week," followed next by a message from co-CEO Monty Moran. "We've come together today to make sure Chipotle is not just the most delicious place to eat, but also the safest," as a result of working with "experts who helped us create the most effective food safety program possible."

    While reiterating some of its previously announced revamped safety measures, including high-resolution ingredient testing on farms and its kitchens and blanching of vegetables to kill pathogens, Ells sketched out details of the new Local Grower initiative, which will provide seed money for the stricter standards "that may be difficult for some of our small suppliers to meet."

    The program will focus on three key objectives:

    • Education and training: Provide the food safety support and education necessary to meet our standards and help offset the costs of enhanced testing and food safety practices for some smaller farmers already involved in our local produce program.
    • Financial assistance: Provide financial assistance in the form of grants or premiums to help cover the higher costs of enhanced food safety practices.
    • Develop new partnerships: Seek out farmers using greenhouses and other technologies around the country that meet Chipotle’s food safety standards.

    Additional details will be forthcoming as the program unfolds. In the meantime, it's fielding questions from interested parties via a dedicated email account at [email protected].

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    • About Meg Major Veteran supermarket industry journalist Meg Major brings a wealth of experience to her role as Chief Content Editor of Progressive Grocer. In addition to her editorial duties, Major also spearheads the retail food industry’s premier women’s leadership recognition platform, Top Women in Grocery. Follow her on Twitter at @Meg_Major, connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/megmajor, or email her at [email protected]

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