State College Food Security Update – Sept. 6, 2011

Cleveland West Community Asset Map

State College Food Security Background: Synopsis & Email/Blog Post Archives

Needs Assesssment/Mapping Team: 

Next meeting is tomorrow, Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m., Room 330 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in State College.

Sylvia Neely

Report from Sylvia Neely on August 23 Needs Assessment/Mapping Team:

Before the meeting, Mark Maloney, (owner of Greenmoore Gardens CSA), sent links of resources, including surveys that have been used in other localities to elicit information about attitudes toward local foods.

Local Food Survey – Kenyon College – “…It has 30 questions which mostly focus on the consumption of local food and how people conceptualize it, buy it, and how important it is to them knowing where it came from. It may help us with the creation of our own survey for SC.

Reimagining Cleveland – Ideas to Action Resource Book – …it offers helpful information about how the movement developed their project and stuck it out together to help the community become enriched via urban agriculture. This guide details a number of options for utilizing vacant land for urban agriculture, stormwater retention, and neighborhood beautification…

25% Shift Summary – From the Northeast Ohio Region Food Web’s main website: “The assessment began in early 2010 when the coalition of partner organizations selected a national consultant team to assess the state of Northeast Ohio’s food system and make specific recommendations for how to “re-localize” it. Their study summary is attached, titled “The 25% Shift – Summary – The Benefits of Food Localization for Northeast Ohio and How to Realize Them”

Other links: Article: Is Eating Locally Possible Within An Average American Family Food Budget; Another sample Local Food Survey: Lake Melville, Newfoundland, CA;  Union of Concerned Scientists ReportCleveland Food Localization Study SummaryToledo Food Assessment and Planning Project

The Aug. 23 State College discussion focused on the following questions: 

  • How do we define our map?
  • How do we develop a survey to ask about local food?
  • Do we want to find out opinions?
  • What would we learn from a survey?
  • What would we do with the information?
  • Do we want to determine what grocery stores sell and how much of that is local?

Observations:

  • Our area is different because of Penn State. Penn State must buy 25% of food from Pennsylvania.
  • There is more agricultural land in Centre County than in Massachusetts.
  • Bald Eagle school district could find only apples and potatoes when they tried to make local purchases for their schools.
  • The 16 counties in metropolitan Cleveland have established a goal of consuming 25% local food.  (See Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition)
  • North Carolina also has a local foods goal established by the Department of Agriculture. (See From Farm to Fork report.)
  • We need to find out why many people do not eat vegetables, to change their attitudes before farms can be developed and grown.
  • We might not have to use money. Barter is already being used on CSAs where work is exchanged for food and for rent. A Transition Towns group from Baltimore is promoting a local currency.  (See Ithaca Hours, the local currency used in Ithaca NY). Millheim has “Slow Money”: a directory of local businesses to encourage people to trade with each other. Cogster is another local model, in State College.
  • If we did a survey and found nobody wants local food, that would be a problem; if we can say the X% are interested, then we can get support of authorities for changes.
  • Conducting a survey may pose overwhelming logistical problems.
  • It would be valuable to know whether people practice canning, freezing, etc.  Many do not preserve because of lack of knowledge. Home preserving is on a much more modest scale than what would be needed by a farm to sell processed food.
  • Currently farms and CSAs produce mostly raw vegetables.  They do not process and preserve what is produced on the farm, mainly because they do not have facilities to do so.
  • PASA surveys its members – the questions are very detailed, but they survey only their members and not all respond to the survey.
  • Similar mapping had been done for the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding area to a radius of 100 miles. (Link needed)
  • Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative may also be a useful model.

Data we already have:

  • Centre County contains 71 grocery stores, defined to include stores such as Unimart, but not Nature’s Pantry, Way Fruit Farm or other food outlets we know. We also have access to per capita national food production data and may be able to assume that Centre County would fit the national norm.
  • USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service has produced a Census of Agriculture for 2007 that has consumption statistics per item.
  • PA Department of Agriculture and PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture might know what statistics are already available.

Book & Website Recommendations:

Discussion turned to mapping (specifically Community Asset Mapping) rather than doing an opinion survey.

The community assets approach

  • starts with what is present in the community;
  • concentrates on the agenda-building and problem-solving capacity of the residents;
  • stresses local determination, investment, creativity, and control.

Decisions:

  1. Our focus area will be Centre County.
  2. We need to focus team work on local sustainability and our next steps. 
  3. We need a central location for links and reports.  
  4. We want to know what we are producing locally that is edible by the local population. Assessment subject can be broken down into three parts: 
    • What is there? (Supply) 
    • What do people want?  (Demand)
    • How to create more interest? (Transformation)
  5. We should break into smaller groups to look more closely at some of these questions. 

For next meeting on Sept. 7, each participant is to reflect on what we really want to see and the information, etc., needed to achieve that goal.

Fundraising/Building Team:

There are currently no meetings scheduled for the Building/Fundraising Team. Incorporation papers have been filed with the PA Department of State for the “Spring Creek Homesteading Fund.” We’ll schedule our next meeting when the legal foundations are in place for fundraising and grant-giving.

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