Food Security in State College – Penn State Report

The focus group research for this report was conducted by undergraduates in the Community, Environment and Development (CED) major at Penn State under the direction of Dr. C. Clare Hinrichs (chinrichs@psu.edu).

Full report:  State College Food Security Report

Concluding Summary:

Our visioning session concluded by identifying a wide variety of food security-related strengths and weaknesses and proposing many strategies for improvement within the State College area. While each proposal is worthy of significant attention, we would suggest that the Borough play a larger role in encouraging partnerships between local food producers, consumers, and businesses. This would grow the local economy and reduce costs related to food transport, which is an important consideration in light of rising fuel prices.

In order to create demand for local products, stores selling such products could announce them and advertise their benefits. If the prices were comparable to national brands, educated consumers would likely begin to choose the foods grown nearby. To address the relative lack of fresh food within walking distance of downtown, if McClanahan’s were willing, they could become an integral starting point for the implementation of this plan. It would be advantageous for them as well to be the one initiating the shift in the supply and demand curve because then they would have a leg up on the rest of this market in State College.

The lack of a sustainable local food system is a public problem because all citizens need to eat, and area food producers need encouragement for production. The Borough can provide these initial economic incentives to grow the market. While it would take some capital up front, once a local market is well established, community members will thrive, thus raising more income for the area and further supporting local businesses and the Borough. By offering incentives to private entities such as grocery stores and restaurants to support local foods, the Borough will be fulfilling its public duty by supporting its citizens in a socially responsible and holistic manner.

Furthermore, if correctly executed the return on investment will be much greater than the initial capital needed to implement the changes. Although the sale of food is not taxed in Pennsylvania, the success of food-related businesses could increase local tax income, resulting in funds to either reinvest in the local food system or in other important areas like education, affordable housing, cultural events, or green energy initiatives. This collaboration will advance the Borough’s development of a livable and sustainable community for all of its members, giving more agency to local farmers and food producers, who would be less affected by the volatile changes in increasingly global food markets.

Therefore, the Borough would be wise to seriously consider a proposal for creating incentives to promote a more sustainable local food system in the near future. This would serve the Borough’s own interests and the interests of community members throughout the State College area.

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