The HVADC Cultivator

HVADC Supporting Food Assessment System Research

In the summer of 2016, a centralized effort began to conduct regional research to identify ways to increase economic resilience and equity in the Greater Capital Region Foodshed and to reduce the impact of poor nutrition on public health. Capital Roots formed a steering committee of community partners and developed a research plan to coordinate the comprehensive Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment, a  project that will serve as a resource for future policies and as a roadmap for a possible Regional Food Policy Council. 


Capital Roots was started in 1975 as a community service project of Garden Way, the former manufacturer of Troy-Bilt Lawn and Garden Equipment. Now a regional non-profit organization with more than a dozen initiatives helping families with low food security, Capital Roots operates a number of fresh food access programs (including the Veggie MobileⓇ),organizes community gardens, offers nutritional and horticultural education and coordinates urban greening projects.


Research for the Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment will identify opportunities to increase the purchase of locally produced food and determine what is needed to fortify the regional food economy by analyzing food production, processing and distribution in 11 counties (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington). Based on the research, recommendations will be made to  inform producers on opportunities to increase production and increase access to local markets, better connect with wholesale buyers, and identify gaps in local food system infrastructure. For consumers, in the counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady the goal has been to identify ways to increase food security and healthy food access across low-income communities by conducting a food security assessment and evaluating the retail food environment as well as the regional food assistance - or emergency feeding - system.

 

The vision of the Assessment for the upper Hudson Valley is for low-income residents to have consistent access to healthy and culturally appropriate food, for farmers to have a viable place in the local markets, for food-based businesses to easily be able to process their products and find steady local markets, and for local food to be distributed throughout the region in an equitable manner. This directly relates to the mission and vision of Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC). 

 

“HVADC supports the mission that we should be able to create a sustainable food system which provides our farmers with diverse and viable market opportunities, but at the same time allows the food insecure to have access to fresh, regionally grown food,” states Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. Erling sits on the Steering Committee for the Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment with other food system stakeholders from across the region. HVADC has been involved with Capital Roots on planning this project from its inception in 2016.  “Food insecure communities don’t necessarily have the funds to support access, but it is vital to a holistic food system that they have the ability to choose food grown in their region, from the standpoints of nutrition, education and justice” Erling continued.

 

Consumption research began in January of 2017, including a literature review and secondary data collection. During the literature review the group looked at methods that others had used in conducting food security assessments,  taking into account what worked, what didn’t, what had been collected and what hadn’t. For secondary data collection, students from several local colleges were enlisted to help. In fall 2017, students piloted a Healthy Food Availability and Affordability study in retail food outlets in the city of Troy. Approximately 60% of the retail outlets in Troy were surveyed in this fall pilot and more students and volunteers will be working on this project in 2018 across the Capital Region. In addition to the surveys, the Assessment team piloted Food Security and Healthy Food Access Roundtable Discussions at social service locations in one urban and one rural community. Information was collected to create a better understanding of what providers view as barriers to food security and healthy food access, versus clients’ insights of their barriers. The information will help identify opportunities for programs and initiatives that meet the needs of clients across the Capital Region. Roundtables will be conducted in one urban and one rural location in each of the four counties this spring.

 

Production research began in Summer 2017 with a literature review of research objectives as well as one pilot study:  a NYC versus Upstate Markets Price and Volume Comparison. Student interns in NYC, Rhinebeck, Troy, and Saratoga went to farmers markets on the same weekend to report the price at which the same or similar products were sold and the volume farmers reported moving for that day. They wanted to understand if vendors at NYC markets were selling more produce or produce at a higher price to begin to speak to the true cost to having upper Hudson Valley farmers selling in downstate markets.  

 

“The idea for this piece of production research was based on a recent economic research study done on the positive impact of NYC farmers markets on upstate producers,” said Amy Klein, Capital Roots’ Chief Executive Officer. “While there are certainly farms in our foodshed benefitting from selling downstate, we want to grasp to what extent that is happening and gather that information from the perspective of upstate farmers, rather than from downstate markets. We hope to continue this study during this coming summer, as the information we are gathering is proving to be quite interesting.”

 

Along with this project, other Assessment research will continue this spring and summer. Additional data collection will come from the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) from both the client and farmer viewpoint. This is important because the FMNP bridges the gap between local food production and healthy food consumption by low-income consumers.
Also in February of 2018, the Assessment team will be connecting with farmers and value-added producers from across the Greater Capital Region through multiple roundtable discussions about regional food production. The first took place at SUNY Cobleskill with upcoming discussions taking place at the Capital Region Farmers Market in Menands (February 8), Columbia-Greene County Community College (February 12) and Washington County Fairgrounds (February 15). They anticipate open, fruitful discussions about barriers in local farming and producing including current business challenges facing farmers and producers and what resources would help them grow. In March, the Steering Committee will meet to review the results and determine if further research is needed by identifying any groups of producers or farmers who may not have been surveyed and identify how best to connect with them. The research phase of the Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment will be completed this fall, and the final recommendations will be published in a report in December 2018. 

 

For more information on these roundtable events or to RSVP visit

 http://www.capitalroots.org/about-us/foodassessment/assessment-events/


For more information on the Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment visit http://www.capitalroots.org/about-us/foodassessment/


For more information about HVADC project and current news, visit www.hvadc.org 

 

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