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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 established a cohort whose individual projects and professional expertise help provide models for successful engagement between regional food systems and community and economic development stakeholders. Through this program, The Wallace Center is supporting a cohort of 8 Fellows demonstrating innovative approaches to using regional food systems as a driver of community and economic development. Fellows are working to build bridges between regional food and stakeholders that have not traditionally been engaged with the sector, including Economic Development, Public Health, and Finance and Investment.

Through these individual programs, each Fellow is completing the following objectives:

  1. Deepening existing efforts and exploring new opportunities to position regional food systems as community and economic development priority. The Fellowship provides more resources to accelerate and promote ongoing work, and provide a space to explore new ideas.
  2. Raising the profile of regional food within new stakeholder groups. Wallace supports Fellows in sharing the impact of their work through conference presentations, peer meetings, and professional network building. This elevates the Fellow’s role and gives 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 Fellows Cohort

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

 Map of Regional Food Economies Fellows' locations.

Map of Regional Food Economies Fellows' locations.

Wallace is pleased to announce our inaugural Regional Food Economies Fellows Cohort, made up of  eight practitioners taking unique and creative approaches to drive new stakeholders to invest in regional food economies.    

Work Directly with Local Business Owners

Krysten Aguilar, co-director of policy and administration at La Semilla Food Center in Anthony, NM is adapting a successful area economic development initiative to food systems. Instead of working directly with economic development professionals, she is taking a grassroots approach, making the case to the businesses owners, who will then convince development officials of the wealth power of food systems.

Create Data-Backed, Compelling Materials

Jen Faigel, co-founder and executive director of CommonWealth Kitchen in Boston, MA has been moving food entrepreneurs from start to success with a comprehensive training program coupled with a commercial kitchen facility. By documenting their tremendous impact through economic analysis messaging that is compelling to economic development decisionmakers, Jen will pave the way for replicating and expanding their model.

Train Town Decisionmakers

Tera Johnson, serial entrepreneur and currently at the Food Finance Institute of the University of Wisconsin, which she founded, is creating a comprehensive set of training materials for engaging a town in a planning and development process leading to high economic impact, scalable and profitable food enterprises, and creating a road map for other communities to follow.

Integrate Food Systems into Economic Development

Sibella Kraus, director of Sustainable Agriculture Education in San Francisco, CA, will work with partners on the ground and at the City and Regional level to integrate food systems and agricultural development into existing economic and community development initiatives.

Target Zoning and Comprehensive Plans

Luis Nieves-Ruiz is the Economic Development Manager for the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council in Orlando, FL. Luis will complete an inventory of food production assets in his region. Luis will use that data to connect with planners and economic development professionals to instruct them on how to utilize them to create economic development opportunities through regional food in their communities.

Create a Regional Local Food Plan

Mike Ortosky is the Agriculture Economic Developer for Orange County, NC. Through his Fellowship, he will expand current county-wide efforts to create a Regional Food Systems Plan to include other partners from the wider region and bring together diverse and disparate stakeholders to inform agricultural development in the region moving forward.

Demonstrate that Healthy Food is Healthcare

Trina Ragain, Director of Community Engagement for Operation Food Search in St Louis, MO, is using her Fellowship to support the Fresh Rx program, which will provide new moms and their babies with healthy CSAs in order to build the case that healthy food and hunger relief services can improve health outcomes, and should be considered reimbursable healthcare expenses.

Mapping the Impact of Local Food

Elliott Smith, Senior Planner for Travis County, TX, is designing Travis County’s Food & Farming Initiative – the County’s first comprehensive plan to support the Austin region’s food economy. Elliott plans to build a dynamic, narrative-driven mapping tool that presents connections, possible partnerships, and potential impacts of the regional food economy to audiences from high school students to elected officials to catalyze public sector support.