It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde.
– David Attenborough
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.
No industry in our community has been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic than culinary businesses. It is estimated that as up to 40% of all independent restaurants and catering businesses may be forced to close by the end of 2020. Food21 is introducing two responses – one near term and the other focused on long-term industry recovery over the next two years.
Because the consequences of Covid-19 will be so hard on community restaurants and culinary businesses there needs to also be a long-term model developed which enables the re-launching or initiation of enterprises. Food21 is assisting in the development of a food hall in the area with the intention of demonstrating the effectiveness of such an approach. Starting in the Fall of 2020, a development team and social impact investors will set the stage for this project. The opening of the food hall is expected to be in Fall, 2021. We are partnering with a local developer and assisting an enterprise team for this for-profit MWBE which is setting a goal of being able to host up to eight business participants at any given time. These investments will in turn stimulate expanding business and employment opportunities in these neighborhoods – demonstrating the power of food to transform lives and communities.
For more information and expressions of interest, contact Rick Terrien at email@example.com.
In the 2018 white paper, Building a Resilient and Sustainable Food Economy for the Pittsburgh Region, Food21 pointed to the severe economic challenges facing our region’s agricultural community. Most farms are not generating enough revenue to enable owners to make ends meet without off-farm income. After almost a year of discussion, Food21 launched the Farm Working Group, which will develop initiatives to raise farm income and improving sustainability and orderly succession. Our focus will be around the regional supply chains that start at the farm and end up with consumers. Fixing on emerging parts of our food economy that can draw their existence from our region’s farming communities.
There is broad consensus that our farms have been pushed out of most regional value chains. The overwhelming majority of acreage under cultivation is for commodity crops – mostly soy and corn – which is not processed within the region into value added products for the consumers. Repairing this chain and drawing investor interest into the chain will serve to increase on farm income, improve resiliency and strengthen the regional food economy.
The Farm Working Group is currently working on several initiatives.
The fastest growing beverage sector in the Western Atlantic Food Shed is unquestionably the craft beer and spirits area. But as one brew master put it, “the only thing local about our beer is the water”. Working with agronomists, farmers, malt houses and breweries Food21 will build a roadmap to substantially increase the availability of locally grown and processed ingredients for this dynamic and regional industry.
Farm & Energy - the Working Group is examining options for dairy farmers to convert their manure into a renewable natural gas as well as investigating turnkey solutions for farmers in the region to access low-cost, on-site energy resources and build commercial, year-round on-farm growing facilities.
The Last Mile - The Working Group will look closely at the use of food hubs, aggregation centers, low cost, small scale mobile transport and other technologies – including supply chain management and planning tools for growers to ensure that the value created by farmers is not lost in closing the last mile between farms and their customers.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
As stated in our mission Food21 is to be “a catalyst for developing new methods and organizing resources in order to achieve the mission of growing the regional food economy consistent with our stated values and ideas”. We will continually seek out ways to design, launch and support innovation through the re-alignment of existing resources and assets in our food system. We will apply technology, proven practice and creativity which will advance the goal of building a resilient and sustainable food economy throughout our region.
Two of our current partnerships that are advancing include:
Lack of access to full service grocery stores has been a major challenge for food insecure communities in our region. Working with our partner, Azoti.com, Food21 is directing a new grocery delivery initiative, Oasis Grocery Direct (OGD) (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. We will partner with a major grocery chain as well as a 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 at least three areas 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.
In 2019, Food21 began its partnership with InCity Farms LLC (ICF) to explore the development of a network of large-scale, commercial aquaponics centers in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. InCity Farms has now entered the final pre-development stages for the construction and launch of a 25-acre campus in the City of Duquesne just south of Pittsburgh. When completed, this center will house a 175,000-square-foot growing center for plants and fish and create over 150 new, full-time job positions. The center will be the hub of a 25-acre campus that will focus on multiple food-based initiatives including a year-round farm market, a vermiculture center, public space for the community and on-site child care. Food21 and ICF will be focusing on subsequent locations in our region over the next two years. Each time, the ICF facility will serve as a hub for a high-impact food campus tailored to specific local needs and opportunities.
For more information, contact Glen Ford at email@example.com.