(May 14, 3:52 p.m.) When consumers eat at their favorite restaurants in Charleston, S.C., they will be supporting their local growers through the new Fresh On the Menu program.

The initiative, developed by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, has already signed on about 60 of the city’s high-end restaurants. The restaurants have agreed to include 25% of their menu items as sourced from South Carolina.

“We’ve done consumer research in our state, and we found out that consumers not only want local produce in the grocery stores but also when they go out to their favorite restaurants,” said Martin Eubanks, director of marketing for the Agricultural Services Division for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Columbia.

The benefit of the program for growers is that it should increase demand for local produce.

“Foodservice is a major player in the movement of fresh products in our country,” Eubanks said. “We see it as a great opportunity for local producers to get more products into foodservice and drive demand for local products.”

The pilot program launched March 1, and if it is successful, the association plans to expand the initiative to other areas of the state. The program is part of the certified South Carolina branding program and is being promoted through outdoor and print advertising in the region.

To participate in the program, some of the smaller growers can deliver products directly to the restaurant, or they can go through foodservice entities or wholesalers in Charleston.