The Warren County Regional Food Center and Produce Packs Project establishes new farm-to-fork connections between local growers and low-income consumers, thereby yielding both economic and health benefits in a rural, low-income community.
The value-added infrastructure and capacity-building programming developed through this initiative will give local growers and food entrepreneurs unprecedented access to a wide array of markets throughout the region. This asset-based approach to economic development recognizes the value in the agricultural landscape, rather than seeking outside panaceas while also drawing on local markets for those resources.
To capitalize on this new market opportunity, we will pilot test Produce Packs, a unique approach to increasing fruit and vegetable access among low-income consumers. Through a small-scale aggregation, processing and distribution program, the Warren County Food Center will purchase fresh farm product from local farmers and bundle it into packages that correspond with voucher amounts. These Produce Packs will be sold at local groceries, supported with a strong branding and informational campaign that includes community outreach, point of purchase promotions, advertising and web-based tools. The success of this effort will be evaluated by tracking sales and assessing workshops held for WIC recipients, farmers and participating grocers. If this pilot is successful, it can be expanded in subsequent years to serve more farmers and larger markets, transforming low-income access to fresh, locally-grown produce and increasing income for small farmers.
The Food Center’s benefits will extend beyond the Produce Packs pilot: through aggregation/storage infrastructure (developed to support the Produce Packs pilot), wholesale contract negotiation, marketing material development, and coordination, the Center will build the capacity of local farmers and food entrepreneurs to penetrate an array of regional wholesale markets. This will yield increased income to area farmers and spur new small business development and job creation in value-added food production.
North Carolina Rural Center Economic Development Center Innovations Grant
Principal Investigator: Molly Demarco