Is The Food Network about to Go Locavore?

By Adriana Velez
Civil Eats

What if you were watching Chopped and you saw Ted Allen unload a bushel of Kiwi Berries from Kiwi Korners Farm in Danville, PA? Or if Ina Garten featured Lola ducks on her show and started raving about Hudson Valley Duck Farm? Don’t hold your breath quite yet, but executives at Food Network are pondering the prospect of sourcing from local, mid-sized farms for their studio kitchens and events. For such a high-profile entity, this move could help bring the sustainable food movement to the tipping point–depending on how Food Network spins it.

But before Food Network jumps on the locavore bandwagon, they must put one key part in place: the un-sexy locavore bugbear, “distribution.” A company like Food Network is used to sourcing most of their food from big distributors that can ship 20 pounds of tomatoes from Chile (in the middle of January), so the idea of buying from local, mid-sized family farms in the Northeast may seem like an unthinkable, logistical nightmare. This is a corporation that can get an egg delivered at midnight, after all. Here’s where Debra Italiano, Red Tomato, and Regional Access come in to stop talking about ideals and to start making things happen.

Red Tomato is a non-profit organization that connects farmers and consumers through marketing, trade, and education. They focus on the logistics behind making locally-based, family-farm, and ecological and fair trade food systems financially viable. Regional Access is a New York State-based distributor founded 20 years ago by organic farmer and entrepreneur Gary Redmond. Regional Access boasts a catalog of more than 5,000 New York-produced specialty and natural foods.

And Debra Italiano? She’s a Wall Street veteran and Managing Principal of Merintra Co., LLC, a strategic business and market development consulting firm. She’s been shepherding green economy businesses and advising renewable energy initiatives. Now she’s working on what she considers the most difficult challenge in fostering sustainable practices among corporations: food.

Together with some additional colleagues, George Gosieski and Lauren McGrath (who has had a hand in Ricks Pics, Foodshed Market, Harlem Harvest Festival, and Pig Island), Italiano has formed the Food Supply and Distribution Systems Initiative which is a social enterprise (i.e. corporate responsibility) organization that is creating a distribution and logistics template for corporate stakeholders interested in supporting food system security. In other words, FSDSI is hoping to help corporations (and institutions like hospitals and universities) plug into the sustainable food movement–and Italiano eventually wants to scale the FSDSI model nationally to support regional food systems everywhere.

Read full post at Civil Eats

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