February 4, 2010
By Jess Daniel
April Harrington of the Oklahoma Food Coop laughs and throws her hands in the air as she describes her organization’s phenomenal growth since its founding in November 2003.
|Some of the speakers on the domestic Community Food Enterprise Panel. From left to right: April Harrington of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Amy Emberling of the Zingerman family of businesses in Ann Arbor, MI, and lead author on the CFE study, Michael Shuman of BALLE|
From humble beginnings in a church basement, the coop has grown to handle over $65,000 worth of local food products in just around six hours on a designated day every month. Its list of producers and customers continues to grow despite little investment in marketing and recruitment. Harrington, who handles the finances, is also a producer herself. Business from the coop has allowed her to expand her operations and hire on new employees.
Innovative food enterprises like the Oklahoma Food Coop were the focus of a January 28 event hosted by the Wallace Center at Winrock International and Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). The event highlighted the results of a 3-year study published by the Wallace Center and BALLE.
Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan kicked off the workshop with a recap of initiatives in the USDA that support local and regional food business development and introduced colleagues in the room from the “Know Your Farmer” team.
The event coincided with Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of a $900,000 award to the Wallace Center–a NSAC member, based in Arlington, VA–to run the Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development (HUFED) Center. According to the press release, the center will provide “training and technical assistance for food enterprises and award sub-grants to eligible entities for healthy food enterprise development.” This investment demonstrates positive reinforcement of the message presented in the morning panel: that locally-owned food enterprises present multiple benefits to both rural and urban communities including stronger local economies, more civic engagement, and better environmental stewardship.
To sign up for updates on the development of HUFED, click here.
The full press release is available below, or on USDA’s website.
USDA Grant to Create Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center in Arkansas
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2009 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $900,000 to the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Little Rock, Ark., to run the Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development (HUFED) Center. This center will work to increase access to healthy, affordable foods, including locally produced agricultural products to underserved communities.
“This ambitious effort will create a national center to help establish local and regional food systems and get healthy food into low-income communities, which are important components of USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Congress created the HUFED Center in the 2008 Farm Bill. The center is designed to respond to the need to redevelop a food enterprise structure in the United States to make more healthy, affordable food available in low-income areas; to improve access for small and mid-sized agricultural producers; and to promote positive economic activities generated from attracting healthy food enterprises into underserved communities. The HUFED Center will provide training and technical assistance for food enterprises and award sub-grants to eligible entities for healthy food enterprise development.
The Wallace Center supports entrepreneurs and communities as they build a new, 21st century food system that is healthier for people, the environment and the economy. HUFED will build on Wallace’s expertise in economic development through local food enterprises and will work with the National Good Food Network, a partnership of nonprofits, for-profits, researchers, government, funders and practitioners dedicated to “scaling-up” the aggregation and distribution of local food.
“The Wallace Center is a natural choice to house the Healthy Urban Food Development Enterprise Center. With years of experience in building local economies, creating new jobs, and health promotion, I have no doubt that the Wallace Center will be a tremendous asset in supporting greater access to health food, both in Arkansas and around the country,” Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln said.
More information on the HUFED Center can be found online at http://www.wallacecenter.org/our-work/current-initiatives/healthy-urban-food-enterprise-development-center/healthy-urban-food-enterprise-development-center .
USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to promote local foods. Aimed at strengthening the connection between farmers and consumers, the initiative also aims to support local and regional food systems for Americans, increase economic opportunities for local farmers, and expand access to healthy food.
The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website, at www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer , features social media tools to help focus the public conversation about farming and food, while engaging American agriculture and linking producers to customers.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.
Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems