Food Distribution in Puget Sound is Focus of New Project
Northwest Agriculture Business Center coordinates collaboration of food leaders in an effort to address issues impacting 4.6 million people
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), together with a network of over 30 entities, is devoting the next three years to address food system infrastructure, food access, and education as the recipient of a $994,400 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Regional Food System Partnerships Program.
The $1.2 million project coordinating one body of collaborators throughout an 11-county region of Puget Sound, all involved with feeding over 4.6 million people. The project launched in October.
“We recognize the Puget Sound region is an ideal region to develop a cohesive collaboration of existing agencies and entities,” said NABC Executive Director David Bauermeister. “Our common goal is to develop a vibrant and sustainable food system. Local, accessible, high-quality food is essential to all of us. We are thrilled to be collaborating to achieve that goal with so many committed partners.”
NABC will serve as the project manager, leveraging long-standing relationships with multiple local, state and federal governmental agencies, nonprofits, lending institutions, colleges and universities, producer-owned cooperatives and more.
This project starts with a baseline of service to nine established producer-owned processing, marketing, and distribution cooperatives. NABC will coordinate with over 200 agricultural producers, currently serving more than 300 supermarkets, institutional food service providers, restaurants, and food banks.
“Developing infrastructure for value-added food processing and distribution is key,” said Bauermeister. “We’ll also offer hands-on technical assistance to farms and food businesses, to support the expansion and gain access to capital. Our organization is very experienced at offering this kind of support and training.”
NABC will create a network of independent farmer-owned food hub cooperatives.
The project’s final responsibility is to implement a replicable food access model, including a focus on USDA-designated food deserts. Food deserts are generally defined as areas both urban and rural where it is difficult to access affordable or good-quality food.
“We need food hubs, farmers, and food banks all working together to ensure everyone can access good food including fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Bauermeister. “We intend to look most closely at our communities facing persistent poverty.”
Since 2006, NABC improves the economic viability of the agriculture industry and provides business resources and hands-on guidance to new or existing businesses that offer value-added or innovative agricultural products or services. NABC works within these 11 Washington counties: Grays Harbor, Island, King, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom. To learn more visit AgBizCenter.org