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In cities across the country, local food advocates are working to develop capacity for food entrepreneurs (and farmers) to add value to their locally grown fruits and vegetables. The emerging literature on urban creativity and cultural industries makes it clear that the city is now a site of dynamic economic creativity and experimentation (Florida, 2002; Gertler, 2001; Scott, 2000) Right here in Columbus, a local group has opened a non-profit food business incubator called the Food Fort. Their mission is to support local food entrepreneurs in the growth of their businesses. They state that job creation and increased access to healthy foods are two of their main goals. (These align with OSU Extension’s mission and work in the local food system arena as well!) The Food Fort offers licensed commissary space to mobile food vehicle (“food truck”) owner-operators. They also operate a licensed commercial kitchen. Similar ACENet in Athens, OH, they provide one-on-one training and technical assistance to help new food-related businesses grow. According to their web site, the Food Fort currently holds these certifications:
- Bakery Wholesale License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Allows for production of baked products to be sold to retail locations. We also have relationships with several local markets and grocery stores and would be more than happy to help you get your products into some of these locations.
- Frozen Food Establishment License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Allows for production of frozen foods such as popsicles and frozen (vegetarian) dinners (note: dairy and meat not covered under this license so ice cream and frozen meat production are not permitted at this time).
- Cold Storage Warehouse License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- In our facility, we have a walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer that are available for rental.
- Commercial Cannery License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Risk Level 4 Food Service Operation License by Columbus Public Health
- Under this license, caterers and bakers can prepare food that they are selling directly to the consumer. The retail sales are done under our Columbus Public Health license, while product prep for wholesale is conducted under the Ohio Department of Agriculture license.
- Wholesale Meat and Poultry Production License by Ohio Department of Agriculture (in process – ETA Spring 2014)
It is commendable that The Ohio State University has identified food insecurity, particularly in urban areas of Ohio, as an issue which must be more vigorously addressed by various units of one of the country’s largest and most comprehensive research universities. In the coming years, tens of millions of dollars will be dedicated by OSU to address this complex issue in Ohio and beyond. If we are to be successful in not just addressing this complex issue, but making real progress towards mitigating some of the phenomena which causes food insecurity in the United States, it will be imperative for us to completely understand the issue. I recently guest-lectured for an OSU class on food justice and food security. The undergraduate and graduate students in the class were very interested in addressing food insecurity, particularly in urban neighborhoods of Columbus, and asked me how the food system in the United States should be changed to address this issue. Instead of answers, I gave the students more questions. The discussion went something like this: Me: Why are some residents in urban neighborhoods in Columbus food insecure? Students: Because some families don’t have enough money to buy food. Me: Why don’t some families have enough money to buy food? Students: Because they are unemployed. Me: Why are some people in Columbus unemployed when we have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, and many jobs are going unfilled due to a shortage of qualified applicants? Students: Because some people have not had educational, economic, or social opportunities. Me: Why have some people not had educational, economic, or social opportunities? Students: Many different reasons, including mental health issues, racial inequality, cultural differences, lack of investment in urban neighborhoods, transportation challenges, etc. Me: (somewhat rhetorically) So, what type of changes in our food system do you think are needed to address the root causes of food insecurity in urban neighborhoods??? If we expect to make real progress with reducing the incidence of food insecurity in Ohio, in the United States, or in the world for that matter, we simply must discover, acknowledge, and mitigate the actual causes of food insecurity. It seems to me that most of these causes are rooted in poverty and a lack of economic resources, not in food or the food system. While the food system in the US needs to change and is changing, such changes should not be expected to address the real causes of food insecurity. In the United States we have been engaged in a war on poverty since the mid 1960’s, when President Lyndon Johnson first declared war on poverty. Identifying the tactics needed to finally win this war will be the key to mitigating food insecurity in urban neighborhoods in Ohio. Useful documents: Food Security in the US – USDA Healthy Food Systems – OSU Extension
Many large universities are located in America’s largest cities. Leaders at these universities recognize their impact on surrounding communities. In many instances, multiple partnerships between cohorts of universities and local communities address key issues and reach large audiences. For example, key initiatives focus on food security, health, and accessibility to higher education. The Ohio State University connects with people living and working in urban communities. OSU is distinct in that it is a: Land-Grant University (LGU) As a land-grant university, Ohio State has campus research centers throughout the state and Extension offices in each of Ohio's 88 counties. Urban Serving Universities (USU) USU members are public urban research universities that are located in metropolitan areas with populations of 450,000 or greater. They demonstrate a commitment to their urban areas. Carnegie-Engaged University OSU was recognized for its extensive engagement programming and how its mission, culture, curriculum and resources are structured to support high-impact community engagement. Member of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) For the past year, administrators and representatives form OSU's 15 colleges have convened to collectively advance OSU's urban mission. More to come... What co-discovery projects are you involved with in Ohio's largest cities? Reviewed By: Julie Fox and Brian Raison Ph.D. Associate Professor, Extension Educator Community Development, Miami County Ohio.