We are reading with interest the Growhio report just released from its 2014 local food summit. In it, the volunteer organization wants to expand access to local food in Cleveland and contends that we are already eating more local food than five years ago. Since Growhio spun off from the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 initiative, a big local food push has come from many hands digging in.
Growhio will hit the pause button—it has run out of funding—but it still sees a lot of work ahead. For one, they feel that local food needs an umbrella organization to keep it growing (they want to create an organization modeled after Bike Cleveland).
Making sure supply meets demand was the point of 25% SHIFT: Food Localization Study for Northeast Ohio. It focused on big picture items like how to break into the conventional food system of growing and marketing. The study estimated that the region eats about 1% local, including raw and prepared foods.
The manifold additions to the local food scene since 2009 include dozens of new farmer’s markets, community gardens, urban farms, prep kitchens, suppliers, CSAs, restaurants featuring local food on their menu and food-to-table middle men coming on the scene— undeniable evidence of the growth in consumer demand.
It would be interesting to put an exact figure for the growing demand for local food (is NEO consuming two percent?).
We asked Growhio's Jenny Kelley and Rebecca Newbould to reflect on these questions.
Q: What are the greatest needs still ahead to increase the consumption of local food?
A: Infrastructure, i.e. food hubs as well as aggregation, and bulk distribution for restaurants, grocers and institutional buyers.
Q: What could a "Bike Cleveland" type of local food organization focus on?
A: Branding, marketing and packaging resources for producers, shopping resources for consumers.
Q: Do you have a best guess as to the increase in consumption of local food since 2009 when the 25% Shift report put an estimate of 1% here for NEO?
We've had a significant increase in the number of vendors as well as customers we've had at our farmers markets over the years. Not to mention an increase in the number of markets. We also did a report (LocalFirstNEO) based on responses from anchor institutions with respect to local purchasing and the demand is definitely there.
We are working on a tool to start helping businesses and organizations establish a benchmark and goals as well as to track increases. That would be a nice start on gathering actual metrics.
This photo gallery is of local food growers and purveyors, which Growhio notes, have come onto the local food scene since 2009.
Also, we wrote a page about what it means to have an urban agriculture movement in Cleveland, and added these new names and faces to a list of resource links.