Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Pamela Hess, of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, who was one of the speakers at the 2015 Food Tank Summit in partnership with The George Washington University.
Food Tank (FT): What will your message be at the Food Tank Summit?
Pamela Hess (PH): Healthy food must be as convenient, ubiquitous, affordable, and appealing as processed food if we are going to change the food system and move the needle on public health.
FT: How are you contributing to building a better food system?
PH: We Grow Food and Support Great Local Farmers and the Rural Economy:
The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture was created in 2010 to create solutions for the regional food system. Arcadia grows food using sustainable methods at our two farms, and we support other farmers who do the same by selling their food in markets they don’t otherwise reach.
We Build, Demonstrate and Meet the Demand for Affordable, High Quality Food in Low-Food Access Neighborhoods:
We get the highest quality locally-grown food into neighborhoods that are not served by other farmers markets through our two Mobile Markets — 18 weekly stops last season with more to come next season.
Mobile Market prices are affordable to begin with, but we make the food even more accessible and desirable by accepting and doubling federal nutrition benefits — SNAP, WIC, and Senior FMNP. More than a third of our sales last season were with customers who bought healthy, locally-grown food using food assistance benefits. We prove every day on the Mobile Market that if nutritious, sustainably-grown foods are high quality, well priced, and convenient, people on even extremely limited food budgets will buy and consume them. More than 60 percent of our first time low-income customers become repeat customers at the Mobile Market. That is a performance metric that would make any MBA envious.
We Create an Appetite for Great Food and Build the Confidence and Cooking Skills of Our Customers:
We show our customers how to make the food we sell so their families will want to eat it. We introduce children to the glories of fresh-picked vegetables and fruits at our farm in Alexandria, Virginia, through field trips and farm camp. They learn about the food system, about sustainable agriculture, and to love their greens — and their farmers.
FT: What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization’s goals?
PH: Capacity. Arcadia is lean, which makes us innovative and efficient. But it also means we can’t do everything we want to level the playing field for healthy food. More Mobile Markets and more staff would directly translate to an increase in customers served, as well as an increase in income for local farmers.
FT: Who is your food hero and why?
PH: M.F.K. Fisher — if you have not read “The Gastronomical Me” or “How to Cook a Wolf,” put down whatever you are doing, locate a copy, and call me when you are done. It will forever change the way you think about and talk about food, life, and memory.
FT: In 140 characters or fewer, what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system?
PH: Reject processed and fast food. Buy from great farmers. Cook from scratch. Insist Congress funds SNAP. Donate to Bonus Bucks programs.