The Ohio Valley Region will soon enjoy better market opportunities for local farms and better access for people and institutions to fresh, healthy, local food. Green Umbrella, the leading alliance working to maximize the environmental sustainability of Greater Cincinnati, was recently awarded a USDA Local Food Promotion Program grant to increase sales for local farm producers through our region’s largest food hubs by 65% by 2020.
Funds from the grant will allow Green Umbrella to partner with two of our region’s existing food hubs, Ohio Valley Food Connection and Our Harvest Cooperative, in order to provide a convenient and efficient local food distribution solution through the Ohio Valley Food Hub Project.
“This grant will help reach and exceed our Local Food Action Team goal of doubling the production and consumption of fruits and vegetables grown in our region by 2020, while growing Greater Cincinnati’s commitment to – and demand for – locally grown food,” says Kristin Weiss, executive director of Green Umbrella. According to Green Umbrella’s local food regional indicator index, our metro area currently ranks #1 in food hubs per capita, and fifth in its commitment to local food overall, in comparison to 15 peer regions.
“The project is really about giving both farmers and institutional buyers the tools they need to make it easier to do business together,” says Alice Chalmers, founder of Ohio Valley Food Connection.
Specifically, the grant is intended to increase farm sales that market through the local food hubs to $1.1 million annually; to provide farm safety planning to over 30 producers and two food hubs; and to increase purchasing of local agricultural products by at least 230 wholesale clients by the end of the project. To fulfill these outcomes, the grant will fund additional staff to help develop relationships with new large institutional clients, create a customized crop plan for each institutional client, manage ongoing ordering and distribution for institutional clients, and measure the scale and impact of sales.
Our Harvest Cooperative packing orders of locally grown food for delivery. [Photo credit: Our Harvest Cooperative]
“The “farm to institution” movement has been growing across the country – including among K-12 schools, preschools and child care centers, universities, hospitals, cafeterias, and businesses,” says Anne Schneider, Green Umbrella’s new local food consultant for the Ohio Valley Food Hub Project. “We will build on local successes while also leveraging national best practices,” says Schneider.
Additionally, efforts will be made to improve the market opportunities for partner farms and food hubs by helping producers and the food hubs meet new federal food safety guidelines as well as building warehousing and transportation capacity for the food hubs to manage increased volumes.
“This grant is providing critical resources to the Greater Cincinnati region’s two local food hubs -- allowing us to work more efficiently together, to increase institutional sales, and to better support our regional farmers. This will have a dramatic impact on our regional food system,” says Kristin Gangwer, CEO of Our Harvest Cooperative.
For more information about the Ohio Valley Food Hub Project, visit www.greenumbrella.org/foodhubproject.
For more information about the local food regional indicator index, visit www.greenumbrella.org/localfoodindex.
For information about how to source locally this Thanksgiving, visit www.greenumbrella.org/localthanksgiving.