Accessible financial resources are a key component of sustainable food system development. We are a proud member of the Council for Development Finance Agencies that has worked hard to strengthen the connection between public and private financing for sustainable food system development. As a member of their Food Systems Finance Advisory Council, we are connected on a national level to peer organizations and financial partners that are debunking the myth that food system investment is not worthwhile. There is firm evidence from across the country, that food-related projects and businesses, when invested in by private and public development finance sources, can be successful.
Much of our work is rooted in agriculture economic development. We have led numerous projects that connect local growers to new business opportunities. We have hosted convenings of local growers and local food businesses since 2009, to facilitate greater connections between these two industries which result in long-lasting business relationships.
Farm to Institution is at the core of our mission. We view the institutional (schools, hospitals, hotels, etc.) purchasing of local foods as a game changer in the long-term sustainability of regional food systems. A shift in institutional food procurement has the potential for major impacts on not only the local economy, but on food access in general. Swaying large institutions with significant food budgets to leverage their purchasing power in support of small and mid-size farms can boost the local economies across New York State. The other goal is to increase access to healthy, local food for the populations generally served by public institutions such as schools and hospitals. The Western NY Food Hub project was one way we increased access to local farm products by large scale institutions across the Western NY region.
The Western NY Food Future plan is a regional initiative to identify opportunities and gaps in the local food system that were acerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This multi-faceted planning effort yielded a roadmap for stakeholders and funders to invest in projects and infrastructure that will strengthen the local food and farming economy. The NY Sustainable Agriculture Working Group will be stewarding the plan forward into the implementation phase. As a member of their board of directors, we will be guiding the plan’s implementation across the 9-county region.