CLEVELAND — Amid a pandemic that has only heightened food insecurity in communities across the state, food and farm organizations came together to find out how local and regional food systems were impacted by COVID-19. What came of the coalition is a new report offering eight policy recommendations Ohio can adopt.
Amalie Lipstreu, policy director for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said the COVID-19 pandemic revealed broken links in the centralized global food supply chain, citing incidences where farmers had to dump excess milk, as well as empty shelves at grocery stores.
"At the same time, our diverse local and regional food system rose to the challenge and helped meet the unprecedented demand from Ohioans wanting safe and secure food, and it has done so with little to no support from the state or federal government. While this response has been remarkable, it is ultimately unsustainable without leadership and investment,” said Lipstreu.
The report expressed the need to invest in food preservation and processing facilities, federal aid for under-served farmers selling at local markets and tax credits to assist landowners in transferring land to beginning farmers.
The report offers eight state and federal policy recommendations:
- Establishment of an inter-agency food work group to identify strategies to fund and build farmers market capacity including technical assistance and infrastructure development for online purchasing platforms for farmers markets, direct-to-consumer producers, and local retailers;
- Establishment of an inter-agency food work group to identify areas where creation of food preservation, processing and distribution facilities are needed and how they can be financed;
- Passage of the HEROES Act with aid for under-served farmers and those selling into local food systems;
- Passage of the Family Farm ReGeneration Act (HB 183/SB 159);
- Changes to state contract bidding requirements for local food purchasing;
- Online infrastructure development for SNAP nutrition incentive programming, like Produce Perks;
- Support of the SNAP Online Expansion and Delivery Act; and
- Passage of Senate Bill 121, which supports nutrition education
Read the entire 18-page report here.
Benjamin Richardson, from Richardson Farms in Medina County, hopes the call to help more farms during this time of uncertainly grows from here.
"There's a need and I know a lot of farms that are small, it would be very beneficial to get them through the season because it has been very uncertain," Richardson said.