We seek to achieve our mission through the development of innovative programs and partnerships in our region. The work of Food21 builds on our six pillars and our approach focuses in four areas:
Build our region’s food businesses by increasing their share of the food economy and encouraging the formation of new businesses.
Address the financial sustainability of our agricultural and rural communities by increasing opportunity for on-farm income
Providing a resource center that can use data to focus efforts to grow capacity and encourage investment into our food system
Serve as a platform for social impact innovation across the food system and demonstrate new solutions to long-standing problems
Food21 seeks to advance the conversation about the importance of our food system and the need to create a resilient and sustainable food economy. Click the icons below to learn more.
As we noted in the 2018 white paper, FOOD21: Building a Resilient and Sustainable Food Economy, the growth of the region’s food economy will require the development of the next generation of food businesses. The consolidation of the food industry is now being challenged by strong demand from consumers for more value-added products and services that find their home in our region and close to consumers. The key is building platforms that enable businesses to increase in number and to achieve scale to ensure financial sustainability. Food21 will be addressing this challenge by implementing a series of scale-building strategies.
One of our six pillars is finding ways to increase the diversity and inclusivity of the region’s food economy. While this has historically fallen to non-profit business incubator programs and micro-business development groups, taking a small idea and then a home-based business to a level where it becomes a wealth-creating enterprise requires more advanced tools. Best practice in this area is to support early-stage businesses with an accelerator – literally a way to rapidly accelerate growth to a scale that is sustainable and meaningful.
Over the next two years, Food21 will focus on this accelerator approach for both food makers as well as culinary businesses.
For makers, Food21 will work with and expand the membership of the Pittsburgh Food & Beverage (FaB) effort. Pittsburgh Food and Beverage (FaB) Network is a peer-to-peer membership group focused on companies and organizations making food products for commercial sale in our region. They also welcome organizations supporting food businesses and food entrepreneurship. The goal of the Pittsburgh FaB Network is to raise awareness of this critical economic sector as well as to promote goods and services of our member companies. Members communicate with one another through a continuous newsfeed and through scheduled events year round.
For innovators in the food business space, Food21 will work in partnership with the David Berg Center at the University of Pittsburgh to adopt a successful effort to launch and raise up women-owned business. This program, Invest In Her, time-tested over the past four years, is now finding a home at Pitt. Food21 will support interns and also provide technical direction to the group.
Starting in June of 2021, Food21 is partnering with Catapult of Greater Pittsburgh to establish an ongoing culinary and food business accelerator for minority food-based businesses. This partnership includes business training through the University of Pittsburgh’s Small Business Development Center and professional culinary training through the LaDorita system. This effort is building on a solid track record of similar accelerator efforts that Catapult has conducted in the retail arena. For more information go to the culinary section of the Catapult program site (https://catapultpittsburgh.org/programs/). The first cohort will have access to the Fulton Commons Kitchens (https://fultonpgh.com/), located in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood. Our Food21 senior advisors and our extensive Pittsburgh Food and Beverage (FaB) network of food business owners and collaborators will serve as support for the cohort.
Food21 is expanding its incubation/support network in 2021 with a growing partnership with Market District, a division of Giant Eagle (https://www.marketdistrict.com/). The team is also building an independent network of food business support resources, contract food manufacturers, and consumer-facing market options, enabling early stage food businesses across the region to achieve success and scale at an accelerated rate.
For more information and expressions of interest, contact Rick Terrien at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food21 is building a center that can work with communities, growers, food producers, public policy makers and academic institutions in applying a broad set of data – both public and private – to address opportunities and challenges in our region’s food economy.
DAS21 will be housed in Food21 and work in partnership with regional data centers to produce coherent and focused research on areas such as targeting where to make investments in the food system, providing communities with accessible analysis of food challenges and how to address them, and defining best practice in the food economy.
Custom research reports will be done on an as-requested basis for a modest fee. Research fellowships for undergraduate students in participating universities and colleges will be available.
DAS21 will generate between three and four formal sector analyses each year. Currently, DAS21 is working on reports targeting supply chain opportunities in the regional craft brewing and distilled spirits industry, a focused look at where to best locate infrastructure to grow the region’s livestock industry and preparing an easy-to-use community food abundance tool for local groups to take action on improving access. DAS21 will also issue an annual “Food GDP” report which benchmarks the regional food economy so that policy makers and advocates can focus their actions and efforts around high-priority opportunities.
For more information and requests for data reports contact email@example.com.
Smoketown Food Enterprises: Empowering Black Food Ventures
The importance of culinary enterprises in community revitalization efforts in urban areas has long been recognized. Coming out of the challenges of the pandemic, this is even more true and no where is it more true than in our Black neighborhoods. Closures of food establishments in these communities have been particularly high. In response, Food21 has formed Smoketown Food Enterprises in June, 2021. This is a unique collaboration that brings together Black real estate developers, community leadership and food enterprise experts in order to launch locations in our area that will be able to support and sustain Black-owned and operated food enterprises. The anchor site for this will be launched at the end of 2022 at a new commercial center, Sankofa Square, located in the historic Hill District (www.sankofagrp.com ). This center will host at least eight new and emerging food concepts in a state of the art culinary hall. (illustrations). The hall will be 12,000 square feet and embody both culinary and cultural activities, a commercial ghost kitchen and a performance space. Food21’s partners in this venture include Catapult of Pittsburgh with whom we are already working together in the first Culinary business accelerator focusing on the Black entrepreneurial community in Pittsburgh.
Oasis Grocery: Solving the Food Desert Problem
Lack of access to full service grocery stores has been a major challenge for food insecure communities throughout our region. Working with our partner, Azoti.com, Food21 is launching a new grocery delivery initiative, Oasis Grocery Direct (www.oasisgrocery.direct). Oasis applies the latest supply chain management technologies for on-line ordering and fulfillment and will bring grocery delivery in] to underserved communities in our region. Food21 is establishing community partnerships to reach the families most in need. We are partners with Giant Eagle (www.gianteagle.com), a major grocery chain in our region to be our lead vendor as well as several regional distribution firms to support neighborhood-based organizations connecting people to place specific grocery orders and have them delivered at affordable pricing. Once the innovation is adequately tested in the Pittsburgh region we will be well-positioned to advance this model across the entire food shed cost-effectively and relieving food challenged communities from the lack of good, quality and affordable access to food and groceries. This will serve to demonstrate the power of market-based solutions to some of our region’s most pressing problems.