Expanding Local Food Movement into “Good Food” Business Sector

From foodtank.com, by John Fisk
Expanding Local Food Movement into “Good Food” Business Sector

On a recent tour of the White House vegetable garden, I learned First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program has sparked hundreds of community gardening initiatives nationwide.  The “Eat Healthy” theme also resonates in the thousands of schools which, according to a new USDA report, now offer meal options with local ingredients.

Marketplace response to consumers’ changing demands is a powerful message for the food movement to convey.  So are the six strategies to grow regional food systems contained in a new report by AGree.

This Washington, D.C. non-profit organized that local food media tour. AGree invited me to provide the perspective of the Wallace Center.   

As champions of the growing regional food business sector, we host the National Good Food Network (NGFN) and provide technical assistance for entrepreneurs.

NGFN is a learning collaborative striving to build a “good food” economy.  “Good food” refers to products and practices that are healthy for the body, green for the planet, fair for farmers and workers, and affordable for all.

Next March 30-April 1, 2016 the NGFN conference takes place in Atlanta.  A focus will be to build the capacity of regional food hubs.

These aggregation/distribution businesses number more than 300 nationwide.  Hubs connect producers and nearby markets.  They help buyers understand “good food” values.

USDA estimates wholesale channels supply 99 percent of the total volume of America’s food.  The movement’s challenge is to make “good food” products more widely available in grocery stores, restaurants, and institutions.

Why local food is becoming a catalyst for economic development was evident at several AGree tour stops.   One is business incubator Union Kitchen.

“We evaluate potential members based on product/process/person,” co-founder Jonas Singer explained.   He displayed a business acumen that “good food” enterprises need if they are to generate sufficient revenue to be both financially viable and socially impactful.