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Program Overview and Purpose

Growth in the regional food sector is attracting interest from new stakeholders: regional planning and development organizations, community-based public health agencies, and the financial and technical service providers that make regional partnerships possible. Many of these stakeholders are engaging with regional food system organizations and practitioners for the first time, and are seeking guidance and exemplars within their own sectors to better understand the opportunities and challenges presented by regional food and agriculture based development. Building a bridge between community and economic development stakeholders and the regional food sector is integral to increasing the viability and resilience of regional food economies, and improving community vitality, health, and wealth.

The Wallace Center believes that developing and communicating a clear narrative that codifies the role of regional food economies in community and economic development is an important next step in evolving the good food marketplace. Connecting these stakeholder groups can make healthy, affordable, sustainably-produced food available to more communities while establishing reliable market channels for local and regionally focused producers. To do so, The Wallace Center seeks to accelerate and raise the profile of the efforts of innovators working within development stakeholder audiences as they pilot new approaches, establish new cross-sector partnerships, and build the case for regional food systems as a development priority.

Regional Food Economies Fellowship Program

The Wallace Center’s Regional Food Economies Fellowship Program will establish a cohort whose US-only individual projects and professional expertise will help provide models for successful engagement between regional food systems and community and economic development stakeholders. Through this program, The Wallace Center seeks to support a cohort of 6-8 Fellows demonstrating innovative approaches to using regional food systems as a driver of community and economic development. Fellows will be selected based on their professional experience and existing efforts to build the case within the following stakeholder groups:

  • Regional Planning & Development (e.g. Economic Development Agencies, Regional Councils, Councils of Government, Metro Planning Organizations)
  • Investment & Finance (e.g. Community Development Finance Institutions, Local/Regional Banks, Social Impact Investors, Philanthropy)
  • Applied Research (e.g. Cooperative Extension, Small Business Development Centers)
  • Agricultural Services (e.g. Farm Bureau, Farmers’ Unions)
  • Public Health (e.g. Healthcare Providers, Departments of Health, Health-Focused Non-Profits)

Each Fellow will design a 12-month program further developing and communicating the case for United States regional food systems as a development priority based on the interests and values of a particular

stakeholder group. Through these individual programs, each Fellow will complete the following objectives:

  1. Deepening existing efforts and exploring new opportunities to position regional food systems as community and economic development priority. The Fellowship with provide more resources to accelerate and promote ongoing work, and provide a space to explore new ideas. In addition to working within the stakeholder groups listed above, Fellows will also advise The Wallace Center on future program development and expansion.
  2. Raising the profile of regional food within the stakeholder groups listed above. Wallace will support Fellows in presenting the work through conference presentations, peer meetings, and professional network building. This will also elevate the Fellow’s role in this area and give them a larger platform to share their stories.
  3. Developing new tools to help food systems practitioners apply best practices and engage new audiences. Tools might include:
    • A presentation on effective messaging and key talking points when meeting with an economic development agency on including regional food development in their portfolio
    • A guide to securing funding from a regional bank that lays out the required documentation and addresses frequently asked questions
    • A set of cases that demonstrate some of the barriers inhibiting food systems investment, and lays out methods for overcoming them
  4. Participating in a community of practice around the goals of this work, and connecting with other Fellows through face-to-face convenings and digital networks.

Inaugural Fellow Cohort

Download our full fellow summaries (PDF) -> Learn all about our 2018 Fellows.

  • Krysten Aguilar, La Semilla Food Center, Anthony, NM
  • Jen Faigel, CommonWealth Kitchen, Boston, MA
  • Tera Johnson, Food Finance Institute, Madison, WI
  • Sibella Kraus, Sustainable Agriculture Education, San Francisco, CA
  • Luis Nieves-Ruiz, East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Orlando, FL
  • Mike Ortosky, Orange County Economic Development, Hillsborough, NC
  • Trina Ragain, Operation Food Search, St. Louis, MO
  • Elliott Smith, Travis County Economic Development, Austin, TX
 Map of Regional Food Economies Fellows' locations.

Map of Regional Food Economies Fellows' locations.