Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rural food banks struggle to meet need

There was a great article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this weekend about the difficulty food banks are having getting enough food to meet the need.

The piece focused on problems in Southwest Pennsylvania, but it paints a picture that is universal among people working to support food programs across the U.S.

"Like the people they help, food pantries throughout southwestern Pennsylvania are struggling -- and in some cases, failing -- to make ends meet as skimpy federal food supplies, a tighter state budget, higher food prices and more needy clients strain resources."

This scenario is taking place all over the country. We need new and better ways of helping this situation.

One idea I've seen work is the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, in rural southwest Wisconsin. I've helped them launch their new model - a professionally staffed small-batch processing kitchen. This model also creates good jobs for people with disabilities. It also creates great new business opportunities for area farms.

This model can also include processing local foods for food bank programs as well as for retail sale.

A professionally staffed processing kitchen can make an immediate impact on a region in many ways: local jobs, support for local farms, increased food security, and great food.

We have a very good food system in the U.S. and it's getting better every day. However, there is a big space in the market that is clearly not being served by existing business models. Such as in the picture above. Such as all the small farms in this region that could be so much more productive with access to professional food processing services.

My goal has been to build a collaborative network of these kind of community focused facilities. This good article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is another argument for this kind of collaboration.

Rural food banks struggle to meet need. Written by Amy McConnell Schaarsmith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Photo of the Corner Cupboard Foodbank in Waynesburg, PA is copyright Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Thank you.

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