Tri-State Region-PA-WV-OH-Food System Project

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Tri-State Region (PA, WV, OH) Food System Project
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Team Members Benedum Foundation; Hillman Foundation; R K Mellon Foundation; Heinz Foundation; Giant Eagle; Eat n Park; Farm to Table; People’s Natural Gas; Sysco; Pittsburg Pickle; Big Burrito Restaurant Group; Chatham University; California University of PA; Penn State University; West Virginia University; Ohio University; Ohio State University; Carnegie Mellon University; Robert C. Byrd Institute; Grow Ohio Valley; Allegheny County Conservation District; Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Sustainable Pittsburgh Idea Foundry; Wheeling Public Market; Pittsburgh Food Policy Council; Republic Food Enterprise Center; ACEnet; The Progress Fund; Greene County Econ; Bridgeway Capital
Point of Contact Scott J. Sheely, Special Assistant, PA Department of Agriculture; Mark Critz, Executive Director, PA Rural Development Council
Participating Municipalities Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; State of West Virginia; State of Ohio; 206 counties and cities in six states; Greene County, PA, USA
Status Implemented
Website
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Description

This project intends to develop and implement a plan to increase the supply of local food available to residents of the Pittsburgh food shed (200 mile radius) in several states. By using a data-driven strategic plan as a guide, it envisions a series of targeted interventions to increase the number of producers, add to the variety of the local food inventory, create and enhance aggregation entities to the distribution system, reduce choke-points in supply chains, expand the number of distribution opportunities, and organize consumer demand in ways that improve the equitability of the food system.

Challenges

  • As a region, the food shed faces a deficit of local food caused by a gradual withering away of producers
    • Producers tend to concentrate on one aspect of production rather than diversifying.
    • Operations growing local food product tend to be small and not operating at a scale to enter more diverse food outlets.
    • Farmers are selling off their mineral rights and leaving the business as the opportunity for gas contracts present themselves.
    • There is a lack of processing facilities for locally-produced meat.
    • Produce farmers avoid getting food safety certifications that are required for larger food outlets (retail food chains, retail food service)
  • Changes in attitudes among young consumers has brought food entrepreneurs to the table but the system itself often lets them down as local product becomes increasingly scarce.
  • Large national and regional chains control retail food distribution which often unwittingly create food deserts as the search of productivity and profit.
  • Technology solutions either don’t exist or they have been unevenly deployed.

Solutions

  • Diversifying the product mix in the region to include locally-grown meat and poultry (sheep, lamb, and goat; small flock poultry; more variety in produce).
  • Increase the scale of local food production (more producers, more product)
  • Explore ways that current owners of farmland can retain mineral rights while transferring operation of their farms.
  • Assist entrepreneurs in building and accrediting new USDA-certified meat processing facilities.
  • Assist farmers in obtaining GAP certification.
  • Organize the retail food distribution system so that new markets are open to producers as local food outlets.
  • Assure that food deserts in the region are addressed by local food resources.
  • Conduct an inventory of technology resources in the food shed as well as identify gaps where technology may help to overcome barriers.

Major Requirements

  • Initial identification of key variables, research, and comparison with other food sheds completed.
  • Steering committee of stakeholders from business, foundations, non-profits, and education has formed and reviewed the research. Still need a regional agriculture council representing farmers and a consumer advisory council.
  • Republic Food Enterprise Center has been pursuing with the support of other stakeholders…
    • Increasing the number of people involved in agricultural production with a series of workshops conducted by the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture in spring 2019 and going forward.
    • Diversifying the product mix in the region to include locally-grown meat and poultry (sheep, lamb, and goat; small flock poultry; more variety in produce) with dozens of workshops in conjunction with Penn State Cooperative Extension that began in spring 2018 and will go forward.
  • Two action plans have been developed around increasing the number of meat processing facilities as well as increasing the number of producers that are GAP certified will roll out in spring 2019 in cooperation with the PA Department of Agriculture, PASA, and several Pittsburgh foundations.
  • Continue to develop and, eventually, implement a Strategic Plan for the Food System in the Tri-State Region (PA, WV, OH).
  • Identify and deploy new projects that open new sources for food aggregation and distribution.

Performance Targets

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Measurement Methods
  • Totally eliminate the deficit of local food in the Pittsburgh food shed by 2027.
  • Increase the number of people and farms involved in agriculture in the food shed by 25% through 2027.
  • Increase the amount of overall output of farm product in the food shed by 25% through 2027.
  • USDA Census of Agriculture regarding counts of people, farms, and output
  • Data from Freight Analysis Framework regarding movement of food in and out of the region.

Standards, Replicability, Scalability, and Sustainability

  • Initial identification of key variables and research related to them was done not only for the Pittsburgh food shed but also in six other comparable food sheds around the country.
  • Comparisons indicate that each food shed has its unique characteristics.
  • However, the planning process involving the gathering of several stakeholder groups and the drafting of a Strategic Plan for the Food Shed is quite replicable.
  • Our planning for the Tri-State food shed already operates at a fairly large scale but it could be downsized for smaller regions.
  • One factor which makes the sustainability of this project more likely is the way that public and private funding (ARC, PDA, foundation) has come together to braid its support together to make things happen. The hope of the future is to engage more funders as the need arises to manage projects while keeping infrastructure of the organization to run it lean.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

This project has yet to fully address the impact that technology may have on its operations.

Impacts

  • More locally-produced food products at a fair price.
    • Higher incomes for local farmers.
    • Fresher, more healthy food for local consumers.
    • Increased accessibility for areas with low access to food resources.
  • New opportunities for younger farmers to purchase land increasing personal wealth.
  • More land in production increasing the tax base of local communities.

Demonstration/Deployment

  • Steering committee will meet again in spring 2019 to consider the elements for its Strategic Plan.
  • A series of workshops conducted by the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture in spring 2019 and going forward.
  • Dozens of workshops in conjunction with Penn State Cooperative Extension around diversifying the product mix in the region to include locally-grown meat and poultry (sheep, lamb, and goat; small flock poultry; more variety in produce) continue in spring 2019.
  • Two action plans around increasing the number of meat processing facilities as well as increasing the number of producers that are GAP certified will roll out in spring 2019 in cooperation with the PA Department of Agriculture, PASA, and several Pittsburgh foundations.