While the Pennsylvania dairy industry faces a milk surplus, about 700,000 people in the Greater Philadelphia area face food insecurity. In order to combat both issues, Philabundance, the largest hunger relief organization in the Greater Philadelphia area, partners with local food banks to upcycle 12 tankers of milk to help launch their Abundantly Good cheese brand in 2018.
Collaborating with Sunset Farms—a family-owned farm in Lancaster County, PA—Philabundance produced five different flavors of cheese—horseradish cheddar, applewood smoked colby, jalapeno colby cheese, and Lancaster cheddar. “It’s handcrafted, it’s fresh, it’s local. It’s not government cheese,” says Kait Bowdler, Philabundance Director of Sustainability.
For every pound of Abundantly Good cheese sold, US$1 goes back to farmers to support Philabundance’s food upcycling program. In addition, Philabundance has donated over 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) of cheese to hungry families in the Greater Philadelphia area. This is especially crucial in an area where 1 in 5 Philadelphians face food insecurity.
The Abundantly Good brand aims to connect rural Pennsylvania farmers with urban consumers, and take a triple bottom line approach that benefits all stakeholders in the local food system. Under such triple bottom line approaches, programs and business operations focus not just on profit, but also social impact and environmental sustainability. Struggling farmers in Lancaster County, PA earn revenue on the milk that would have gone to waste. Upcycling the milk that produces the cheese reduces the environmental cost. Customers in the Greater Philadelphia area receive high quality cheese.
Philabundance developed the Abundantly Good brand with the help of a US$140,000 grant from the Claneil Foundation. Prior to launching the product, Philabundance relied upon research from The Surplus Foods R & D Center at Drexel University to see if consumers would purchase food products made with upcycled or surplus ingredients. The research found that consumers perceived upcycled food products as a separate food category compared to conventionally grown food products and organic products. Furthermore, consumers preferred the term upcycled in labeling these types of food products, compared to others such as reprocessed. If the product proves itself to benefit the environment and society at large, then consumers are more likely to have a more positive attitude toward the product. With this research in hand, Philabundance believes there is a market potential for the Abundantly Good offerings.
The Abundantly Good cheese is on the shelves at specialty food stores, such as DiBruno Brothers, The Common Market, Third Wheel Cheese Company, and TBJ Gourmet. Abundantly Good and TBJ Gourmet recently collaborated to develop a spiced tomato jam with proceeds from the jam going towards donating tomato products, including soups and sauces, to Philadelphia area families. The Abundantly Good brand hopes to expand its product line in the future, but growth and sustainability are dependent upon partnerships with food producers, processors, and retailers.