Building Community Health & Wealth through Food
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Our Plans

Edible Economy is currently identifying and engaging partners—organizations as well as individuals—so we can determine how best to apply our individual capabilities and collective resources to addressing the challenges and proposed solutions outlined in the table below.  A few key points . . .

  • These are based on findings from a local food system assessment performed by food system analyst Ken Meter for the 32 Central Illinois counties in our target area. This assessment determined that Central Illinois loses $5 billion annually because more money is spent on food and agricultural inputs from outside the region than is earned through farming and food production within the regaion.
  • An initial business plan has been developed by Illinois Business Consulting at the University of Illinois, with funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCEO).
  • Heartland Community College, a founding member of EDIBLE ECONOMY, was recently named as a regional Illinois Green Economy Initiative with a focus on sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems–and is in the process of hiring a director, who will provide project management services to help coordinate EDIBLE ECONOMY stakeholder efforts

Here is a quick summary of the challenges we have identified and the key solutions we are considering:

 

CHALLENGES

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

CONNECT UP  

  •  Central Illinois lacks the marketing, aggregation, and distribution infrastructure needed to efficiently connect food producers with food buyers and consumers—and provide the information needed to support the marketing relationship.  This means the current system is labor-intensive and inefficient for all participants.
  • Network of on-farm aggregation hubs, each serving farms within a 50-mile radius and connected by trucking/distribution routes for transporting local farm products to buyers
  • Marketing services, including an online, real-time system to facilitate information-sharing and manage transactions between buyers and sellers, including food banks and others serving low-income populations
  • Producer or multi-stakeholder cooperative to own, operate, and manage this infrastructure network

SCALE UP  

  • Current food production is not adequate to meet the demand that would be generated within a more efficient regional food system. We currently lack the land, capital resources, farmers, and skilled farm labor needed to produce local food in quantities to meet this demand.
  •  Local Food Enterprise and Learning Centers to lay the foundation for a healthy community and strong food, farming, and business enterprises.
  • Curricula and laboratory facilities, including educational farms, to train workers for food system job opportunities
  • Curricula, apprenticeship programs, and incubator services for prospective farmers and other local food entrepreneurs
  •  Seasonality of production in Central Illinois is a challenge for many buyers, especially institutional buyers—and it constrains the market for local food products
  •  One or more processing and warehouse facilities providing stabilization (freezing, canning, drying, etc.) of fresh produce for marketing and distribution outside the growing season
  • Assistance to farmers with season extension practices and technologies, including potential for co-location of processing and growing facilities to make use of waste heat for greenhouse operations
  •  Central Illinois has lost most of its food processing capabilities, meaning farmers must send their products out of state for value-added processing—which limits their ability to realize maximum value for their products and reduces economic opportunity for local communities
  • One or more facilities providing value-added processing and marketing for a variety of local farm products
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