ON THE GO
Food is a hot topic these days, and rightly so. With childhood obesity, diabetes and cancer rising at alarming rates nationwide, nutrition is now getting the attention it deserves. A grassroots movement, GO or Green/Organic, aimed at raising awareness about healthy lifestyle, is gaining steam right here in Arizona. We caught up with GO organizer, Rick Freedman, Sedona-based owner of Picazzo’s restaurants, who recently converted his popular Italian eateries to entirely organic menus and is encouraging other businesses to become more sustainable.
“Our goal is to raise the bar on healthy eating and set an example about how businesses can reduce their carbon footprint and still maintain a high standard in quality,” Freedman explained, noting that it took about eight months to make the conversion. “We started the GO movement to increase awareness about the health benefits of organic food and to get the community excited about sustainability.”
According to Freedman, converting his restaurants involved matching a flavor profile to his existing menu using organically grown vegetables and meats without added hormones, antibiotics or nitrates added. The new menu also offers whole grain and gluten free options. In addition to menu changes, the restaurants also adopted more sustainable practices throughout operations including purchase of locally grown produce to reduce transportation emissions and a switch from linens to recycled paper products to reduce water usage by 30-40%.
With its new menu and a new name, Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen serves between 30 to 40 thousand meals per week in nine locations throughout the state. Freedman is launching a tenth restaurant in Tucson this year.
“I feel we have a real opportunity to make a positive impact. It is my hope that GO inspires other businesses to do the same. I believe that as the GO movement grows, we will send a far-reaching message to all business owners that we can be sustainable and healthy while remaining profitable. Best of all, we are doing what is right, not only for ourselves, but for the environment as well.”
While the GO movement is still in its embryonic phase, Freedman plans to organize public activities such as cooking classes and eco seminars to get more people excited about adopting healthy eating habits and taking action toward sustainability. He also plans to support local sustainability efforts by involving GO members in municipal activities and environmental awareness events as they occur. To become a charter member of GO, visit www.picazzos.com.