Friday, February 11, 2011

Launching our network of shared-use food processing and distribution facilities - the Food Action Alliance

There is a large, growing, demand for good local and regional foods year-round.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is a shared-use facility dedicated to providing not only commercial food processing tools, but also professional processing services.

Given the chorus of positive feedback this model is getting from customers and growers, I'm convinced we need to increase this capacity. The markets are there.

To that end, three neighboring facilities in Southwest and Southern Wisconsin are joining into a collaborative alliance to provide small and mid-scale food processing, packaging, storage and distribution services for regional food partners.

We're going to organize under a voluntary, collaborative model we're calling the Food Action Alliance, or FACT Alliance. The web site will be

The first three facilities to join as partners in the this new collaborative alliance are the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen (Hodan Center, Mineral Point), Sharing Spaces Kitchen (Opportunity Center, Prairie du Chien), and Greenco Industries in Monroe.

This project is designed to learn what works and doesn't work in this kind of collaborative regional food system. We will run the experiments and continuously improve, with a goal of replicating the model into a growing network of local food processing centers.

Here is the outline:

Project Mission

Our mission is to develop an increasing capacity for providing an increasing amount of good local and regional foods to an increasing number of people at increasingly affordable prices.

The Food Action Alliance, (FACT Alliance)
The Food Action Alliance, (FACT Alliance), is a collaborative network of small and mid-scale food processing, packaging, storage and distribution facilities and services. The first three network partners are wonderful community organizations serving people with disabilities in South and Southwest Wisconsin.

At the launch of this network these three partners are working together:

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point is in place to prepare, package, label, store and ship large quantities of many foods, all through a beautiful a state-inspected commercial kitchen.

Greenco Industries in Monroe offers food packaging services, (FDA & USDA inspected), and 4,500 square feet of food-grade refrigeration, storage and distribution capabilities.

The Sharing Spaces Kitchen in Prairie du Chien broke ground in Oct. 2010 and expects to open this year. The Innovation Kitchen and Sharing Spaces Kitchen have been partnering with with one another since the start and together will offer 16,000 square feet of regional food processing, storage, shipping, and sales capacity.

In combination, these three network partners will have over 20,000 square feet of regional food processing and distribution capacity, while providing new marketing and sales channels for our growers. The effort will also create new jobs across our region.

"Local-food facilities plan to join forces"

The publication The Country Today did a very nice story this week about our new Food Action Alliance. Here are a few quotes:

"Three southwestern Wisconsin food-processing facilities are making plans to work together to meet a growing urban demand for local food."

"The facilities employ developmentally disabled people from five counties to process and package food for local farmers and food companies."

"Local food-processing plants are the missing link between farmers and urban markets, Terrien said. He said there are about 35 million people within a half day's drive of southwestern Wisconsin, and they are looking for locally produced food."

"Terrien said Karen Lehman, executive director of Fresh Taste, an organization formed to advance local agriculture and healthful eating in Chicago, recently brought a five- state delegation to the Innovation Kitchen and left impressed.

"She said, ‘We have 8 million people in the Chicago metro area and this is what we need,' " Terrien said. "She said these kinds of facilities build communities and human capital."

"Terrien said he's optimistic that the Food Action Alliance project will take off.
'It's the next layer up,' he said. 'We're going to try three facilities working together first and then next year go to 10 and then after that go to 50.'"

Thanks to Jim Massey, Editor at The Country Today for a good story.

Our new food processing network is at the heart of one of America's great growing regions, and is within a half day's drive of 35 million people.

What a network like this represents to small and mid-scale food enterprises and consumers alike, are proprietary food processing supply chain services, where foods and their preparation can be regional, local, and even farm-identified. All product lines going through the network can be marketed under FACT Alliance shared brands or private labeled under customers' own brands.

In reality we will need all kinds of help, especially customers and sponsors, who would like to partner with us to grow this kind of network.

I'm convinced we can use these kinds of platforms to create jobs and to get increasing amounts of good food to growing numbers of people.

Our Food Action Alliance network is underway!

The Country Today article introducing the new 3-facility Food Action Alliance. Access fee charged

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, in Mineral Point, WI.

Greenco Industries, in Monroe, WI

Sharing Spaces Kitchen at the Opportunity Center in Prairie du Chien, WI.

Iowa County Area Economic Development, Come Grow With Us!

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