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As a region Northeast Ohio spends about $10 billion dollars on food annually. As a state with great agricultural traditions (and presently ranking #8 in the nation with its 75,000 farms), Ohio produces more than half the amount of food it would need to be self-sufficient. And yet in Northeast Ohio only about 1% of the food we consume is produced in this region - smells a little fishy, doesn't it? The Coalition's Local Purchasing Working Group seeks to work with individuals, street vendors, restaurants, institutions, and grocers to source a higher percentage of their food locally so the region benefits economically and the whole world benefits environmentally. We're doing this by helping each of those groups consider the value of "import substitution" and helping promote the type of distribution and processing network required to most effectively do that.
Follow this link to read a comprehensive policy brief prepared by Local Purchasing when its focus was more on institutional purchasing.
Current Goals for the Local Purchasing Working Group
Recently, Local Purchasing has been working on a number of projects, for which progress is detailed below. These projects include:
- Sustainable Street Food Pilot Program
- Farmers' market policy and procedure guide
- Supporting the creation of new farmers' markets in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, especially at Cleveland's Public Square
- Helping acquire and administer an Ohio Specialty Crop Block Grant
- Promoting the "local purchasing ordinance" and monitoring the results
Most of the goals Local Purchasing set for these projects have been accomplished, so the working groups is working to establish new goals to further their mission. These projects will likely involve farmers' market promotion and may involve further outreach on local food purchasing to restaurants and locally-owned grocery chains, as well as helping implement the recommendations of the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan.
The best way to stay up to date on what each of the working groups is doing is to frequently check the Blog.
Results Achieved through the Local Purchasing Working Group
City of Cleveland's Local Purchasing Ordinance
One of the key accomplishments of the Local Purchasing Working Group was the passage of Ordinance No. 1660-A-09, known informally as "the local purchasing ordinance." Local Purchasing facilitated Cleveland City Council and the Mayor's Office partnering to develop the legislation, which was approved in April 2010. It provides 2% bid discounts on all applicable City contracts to businesses that are sustainable, locally-based, and/or purchase 20% of their food locally - these can be combined for a max discount of 4%. Supporting independent area producers enables them to practice or transition toward sustainable production methods and keeps more money in the regional economy. The ordinance - and all the efforts that led up to it - illustrate the City of Cleveland's interest in fostering local food production and the local economy in general.
With the help of the Local Purchasing Working Group, a resolution was originally introduced to Cleveland City Council at the end of 2008 that would incorporate a local food purchasing pledge into city food contracts (10% sourced from within 150 miles). The resolution passed and can be viewed here in the City Record, and it ultimately led to the establishment of Ordinance No. 1660-A-09, which now mandates the City's role in supporting the purchase of locally-produced food.
The Local Purchasing Working Group led the Coalition's Quarterly Forum in April 2010 with an explanation from representatives of the City Council and Office of Equal Opportunity explaining the ordinance in general and their specific roles within its passage and implementation. You can read about the event in this GreenCityBlueLake article and more about the history of the ordinance in this other one.
Creation & Promotion of Farmers' Markets
Another major initiative of the Local Purchasing Working Group has been to bring together market managers and other key personnel of farmers' markets to share best practices and work together to increase consumer participation in the network of markets in Greater Cleveland.
To ground this work, Local Purchasing aided a group at Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School of Management in conducting a study released in 2009 that looked at how to create successful farmers markets' in low-income, urban neighborhoods. The study, which incorporated national and international perspectives but was focused on Cleveland, supports the notion of farmers' markets increasing access for underserved urban populations and offers numerous strategies and best practices for doing so. When the study was released the Local Purchasing Working Group was already well underway in implementing these types of techniques.
In particular, several members of Local Purchasing were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the creation of the Downtown Farmers' Market at Public Square in 2010 in the heart of Cleveland. These members addressed issues ranging from identification of the most appropriate site to determining all the permits required to get the market off the ground in a safe and effective way. As an extension of this work the working group is putting together a farmers' market policy and procedure guide, which will share these best practices specific to Cleveland and Cuyahoga County with others who may be interested in starting new farmers' markets.
The collaborative spirit among many farmers' market managers in the area carried over to the formation of the Cleveland Farmers' Market Guild (CFMG), a loosely-defined collection of independent markets in the area. In 2010 under the guidance of Growhio and in conjunction with the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation, the CFMG was awarded an Ohio Specialty Crop Block Grant. This allows the state to guide federal dollars toward the promotion of area-grown fresh fruits and vegetables and will be executed by the CFMG and Growhio through the end of 2011. The outcomes will include: a) a promotional video on the benefits of buying such crops at local farmers' markets, b) a series of classes taught by market managers and other educators affiliated with the group, and c) advertisements for specialty crops at farmers' markets on the sides of area RTA buses. The group is hopeful that these efforts will help grow these particular markets and increase the size of the pie, so to speak, so that new markets in the area may be created and all can be competitive - which ultimately is a great way help take local, sustainable food production to scale.
Sustainable Street Food Pilot Program
In 2009 and 2010 the Coalition collaborated with the City of Cleveland and other partners to establish the Sustainable Street Food Pilot Program, which offers grants and favorable loans to new food cart operators who will provide healthy, locally-sourced menu items in a wide array of culinary styles.
Cleveland has a strong and diverse culinary tradition. The program was created in order to expand on this tradition, as well as encourage small business growth and sustainable business practices, activate public spaces, promote local artists, and facilitate the availability of healthy local food options. Partners include the City of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Public Art, Charter One Bank, Playhouse Square, and the Coalition.
The Local Purchasing Working Group has been closely involved in the creation and streamlining of the RFP/Application, as well as the evaluation of food cart proposals for their efforts to incorporate locally-produced and/or locally-processed ingredients and favor other sustainability measures such as recycling and use of minimal packaging. Local Purchasing provided guidance to applicants on how to improve their menus accordingly and was involved in the creation of legislation that allowed the program to come into existence.
In its first year in 2010 the program filled approximately 10 slots, most of which involve a favorable loan to get the carts up and running, along with a grant to work with Cleveland Public Art to design appealing exteriors to carts in order to ensure the program contributes to a more vibrant culinary scene. Read more here about the launch event for the program.
Cleveland Corner Store Project
The Local Purchasing Working Group was also involved in the Cleveland Corner Store Project, which helped increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in convenience stores in underserved Cleveland neighborhoods as a way of addressing food insecurity. The research was conducted through the Center for Health Promotion Research and was led by co-founder and former co-convener of the Coalition, Matt Russell - who also was a co-chair of Local Purchasing before moving on to join the USDA's Farm-to-School Program. The working group explored the feasibility of the produce featured in the program coming from local sources and was able to include a large number of apples via the City Fresh program. The program was featured in a New York Times story in 2009 and also resulted in an academic paper on the topic. You may be interested to peruse the final report, FAQ, and a large poster describing the results of the study. You may also want to learn more about the role of the Health & Nutrition Working Group in this project.