Urban Affairs Center survey shows support for local, fresh food club on campus

March 11, 2011 | News, UToday
By Sarah Ritenour

More than half of The University of Toledo community surveyed recently by the Urban Affairs Center responded they were “very likely” to participate in a fresh, local food buying club on campus.

The idea for the club is that local farmers would bring in fresh produce, vegetables and fruits to sell on campus.

The center was optimistic that the results would be positive, but they ended up being beyond the expected. Out of 674 UT community members surveyed, 88 percent expressed interest in participating in the program, and 50 percent responded they were “very likely” to participate.

“We are currently working with local food producers to see how the Urban Affairs Center can be of assistance,” said Jeanette Eckert, research assistant and survey research services manager in the center. “We hope that we can connect with the right person or partnership soon to move into the more detailed planning stage.”

There is the possibility the program could be up and running later this year, but there are many factors that could delay or speed up the process, Eckert said.

“We do not want to overwhelm farmers with a huge increase in production, as we are already approaching the growing season for this year. It is unclear as of now how soon the producers could be ready,” she said.

To alleviate the pressure on a single farmer, the produce will likely come from numerous farms in the region. Using multiple farms increases equity by giving many producers access to this new market, ensures a continuous supply of products, and provides opportunity for a wider variety of products, Eckert said.

The long-term goal is to see this as a separate enterprise. While the Urban Affairs Center will be heavily involved in the pilot of the program, it is hoped a local entrepreneur will use this to create a small business opportunity.

“We’ve had some individuals show interest, but no one has signed on to take the lead yet,” Eckert said. “If anyone out there feels this might be their dream job, please give us a call.”

The Urban Affairs Center will host a summit, “Local Foods: Strategies for Jobs and Health,” Friday, April 15, at the Dana Center on Health Science Campus.

For more information, click here or contact Eckert at 419.530.6048.

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