Cincinnati's local food movement spurred by Partners for Places grant


The City of Cincinnati recently received a $105,000 Partners for Places grant to help strengthen the area’s local food ecosystem by supporting civic engagement, developing new food policies, creating the Cincy Food Fund and funding food fellowships. The grant was matched by Interact for Health and the Haile Foundation, stretching the potential impact even farther.
 
“Although the food movement can be very foodie and high-end, the robust and growing local food movement is also very sensitive to the underserved populations,” says Brewster Rhoads, outgoing executive director of Green Umbrella. “We’re committed to equity and access to local food, and this helps improve the health and overall welfare of our citizens while also growing small businesses with local dollars.”
 
The grant is being managed and administered by Green Umbrella, whose Local Food Action Team is at the focal point of Cincinnati’s local food movement.
 
“The whole notion of farm-to-table isn’t new,” Rhoads says. “What is new is the level of collaboration that is developing among those who are interested in and engaged in working with food.”
 
As part of this, Interact for Health recently changed its focus from healthcare to prevention, with two of the group’s four main focus areas being active living and healthy eating. The organization is helping develop the region’s walking/biking trails and funded the creation of Green Umbrella’s Local Food Action Team, which hopes to double the amount of food grown and consumed in the region by 2020.
 
Interact for Health also funded the Assessment of Local Food in Greater Cincinnati, which has lead to the formation of a number of local groups and organizations committed to Cincinnati’s local food movement.
 
“With all of these things falling into place, the food movement is just exploding,” Rhoads says. “There’s a burgeoning restaurant explosion in the region, and not just in Over-the-Rhine. With the growing interest in local food by chefs, they’re sourcing food from the region, which is creating a whole new outlet for growers in the region.”
 
The grants will be used to help provide funding for innovative projects that the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, which was launched three months ago, commissions through its four teams — production, distribution, access and land use. The teams will have funding to support pilot projects in each area of interest.
 
They’ll also be used for the Cincy Food Fund, which is patterned after a similar program in Indianapolis, and to underwrite the Food Fellows, who will do three-month internships that focus on production, distribution, community education and land use.
 
“We’re focusing on helping grow the next generation of food activists,” Rhoads says.
 
Part of this focus on local food comes down to the everyday consumer. Green Umbrella’s Local Food Action Team is encouraging people to commit themselves to spending 10 percent of their grocery budget on food that’s grown in the region. That act would put almost $50 million back into the local food movement.
 
“By changing this behavior and encouraging people to do this, it will help increase the demand on food grown in the region, and production demand will follow,” Rhoads says. 
 

Read more articles by Caitlin Koenig.

Caitlin Koenig is a Cincinnati transplant and 2012 grad of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She's the department editor for Soapbox Media and currently lives in Northside with her husband, Andrew, and their three furry children. Follow Caitlin on Twitter at @caite_13.  
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