Regional Foodshed Assessment

Locally grown food can promote a community’s health, relationships, and economy. While the local food movement in southwest Ohio is growing, it remains relatively small, and many barriers to growth exist. As part of an effort to grow the local food economy, Community Solutions is now working on a foodshed assessment for Montgomery, Clark, and Greene counties.

The Foodshed Alliance defines a foodshed as “the geographic location that produces the food for a particular population. The term describes a region where food flows from the area that it is produced to the place where it is consumed, including the land it grows on, the route it travels, the markets it passes through, and the tables it ends up on.” A foodshed assessment seeks to understand and document those food systems and trends in a particular region.

Community Solutions will research the region’s current food production, distribution, and consumption patterns, including “food deserts” where access to healthy food is limited. The assessment will also consider the land’s potential productivity to feed the region and the limiting factors that hold the region back. Lastly, the study will look at models that have helped other regions grow their local food economy, and make recommendations as to what can be done in our own region.

The assessment is one part of the bigger picture that Community Solutions sees for growing the local food economy. Read about the possible development of a commercial kitchen / food hub below. To see an example of a completed foodshed assessment, see the 2010 study done by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Food Hub / Commercial Kitchen

For local foods to become more abundant and accessible, farmers and food entrepreneurs require greater access to processing, storage, distribution, and wholesale systems. With that in mind, Community Solutions is exploring the feasibility of a food hub and/or shared-use commercial kitchen incubator for Montgomery, Clark, and Greene counties.

The USDA defines a food hub as “a centrally located facility…facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.” Food hubs typically purchase food in bulk from farmers and deliver to restaurants, food trucks, caterers, hospitals, schools, etc. The USDA describes kitchen incubators as “publicly accessible commercial kitchens [that] provide opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs without high startup costs.” Kitchens often include spaces for prep, cooking, baking, drying, canning, packaging, and cool, cold, and dry storage. Tenants rent by the hour and include all types of value-added processors, who need a licensed and equipped kitchen to make their food products. Facilities can also include consulting services, financing, and office space for new food businesses. AceNet in Athens, Ohio, is an example of a commercial kitchen that has tangibly improved a region’s economy by helping farmers and food entrepreneurs to grow their market and reduce their risks and barriers to entry.

Community Solutions will be surveying potential users of the facility, assessing the financial viability of various services, and determining the development costs. We are hosting monthly community meetings to discuss the project’s direction. In the meantime, we are also exploring ways to bolster the local food economy that can be pursued immediately, with existing resources, and smaller amounts of money. These include the development of online food marketplaces, institutional buying programs, an online kitchen rental network, and a food delivery network.