Chipotle will commit $10 million toward helping its smaller suppliers meet increased food safety standards.
Steve Ells, founder and co-CEO of the Mexican restaurant chain, announced the Chipotle Local Grower Support Initiative during a meeting with employees on Monday.
The program seeks to educate small and medium-sized farmers about the new standards and to help offset the increased costs of new testing and safety practices with grants or premiums.
Chipotle also indicated that it would look to develop new partnerships with farmers that meet its safety standards and ultimately bolster the number of local ingredients available at its restaurants.
“We have supported local farms around the country for a number of years because we believe it is the right thing to do,” Ells said. “We recognize that it may make it difficult for some local farms to comply with our heightened standards."
Chipotle closed its locations for Monday's meeting in the wake of several high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks last year.
Hundreds throughout the country were sickened by outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus, which sent sales plummeting and led the company to overhaul its food preparation practices.
Chipotle long sought to acquire ingredients from local suppliers and prepare them in individual restaurants, but officials late last year shifted to washing and cutting produce at centralized kitchens.
The company also established new practices for food testing, ingredient tracking and employee training.
Chipotle offered a free burrito to customers that texted the company during Monday's shutdown, and plans to run a new ad campaign this month in an effort to lure customers back.