Farming and food agencies met virtually Tuesday morning to discuss recommendations for building a more resilient food system in Ohio.
The recommendations are listed in a report that explores how the food supply was interrupted by Ohio’s stay-at-home order, and ways to bolster its viability.
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association policy chair Amalie Lipstreu says the global pandemic presents a critical time to examine the state’s food processing capabilities.
“Many producers have to schedule their livestock processing months in advance,” Lipstreu says. “Additionally, there’s only one certified organic meat processor in the state. At the same time, many livestock producers are interested in becoming certified organic, but don’t do so for lack of processing facilities.”
The report offers eight recommendations across different sectors of Ohio’s food economy. They include developing online infrastructure for SNAP nutrition incentive programming and establishing an interagency food work group to identify ways to streamline food preservation.
Ohio Farmers Market Network chair Jaime Hadji says, while it wasn’t explicitly tracked, evidence strongly suggests farmer’s markets were making more money pre-pandemic as people took more interest in eating locally.
“Farmers and markets have incurred additional costs such as labor, PPE, sanitizer, rent and other overhead for locations, and online sales fees and management,” Hadji says.
According to Hadji, the average farmer’s market was making $11,000 a day before Ohio introduced its stay-at-home order in March.
“This work should give consideration to the administration of these programs and ensure a streamlined system that provides consistency for customers, farmers and markets,” Hadji says.
Agencies represented in the report are the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio Farmers Market Network, Ohio Food Policy Network and Produce Perks Midwest.