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Challenge

Oasis Foods’ Supply Chain Innovation: Shortening the Distance from Field to Fork

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The Oasis Project
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Youth Urban Agriculture and Environmental Education
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Oasis Project: The Maker's Clubhouse Environmental Summer Camp
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Future Oasis Farm and Fishery
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Community Challenge
Homewood is one of Pittsburgh’s most food insecure communities. Over 80% of children who attend school in Homewood are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch. According to a 2012 study by RAND:
·         None of the neighborhoods’ 14 local retail outlets sold fresh fruits and vegetables;
·         40% of Homewood residents were food insecure with residents saying that often or sometimes “the food that we bought just didn’t last, and we didn't have money to get more;”
·         Nearly half of the 429 respondents reported diet- and nutrition-related health problems including hypertension, arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease;
·         The average respondent traveled 3.5 miles to the grocery store and about 40% had limited access to a vehicle.  

The goal of this project is to engage and energize our neighborhood’s young people around a sustainable and transformational solution to these issues. Several community-based organizations currently attempt to address food insecurity in Homewood. These organizations include, but are not limited to: The Allegheny County Food Bank, the YMCA, local church food pantries, Homewood Children’s Village, Bible Center Church, Operation Better Block, Phipps, and Grow Pittsburgh all operate gardening or food supplementation programs, many with a focus on youth and families. This is a great start. The community has also created a comprehensive land use plan that envisions the neighborhood as a food destination.  

Created in 2012 as part of a larger 10-year business development strategy to address Homewood’s food access and insecurity, Oasis Foods is a family of food-related social enterprises that includes a café, catering business, urban farm, and commercial kitchen with education, employment and entrepreneurship training programs. Consistent with this vision, Bible Center Church has recently opened a retail coffeehouse and catering business—Everyday Café www.everydaycafepgh.com, has launched a 21st Century urban micro-farm called Oasis Farm and Fishery (including a fully off-grid solar-powered greenhouse that houses hydroponic and aquaponic growing systems), the land and business plan for a full-scale commercial urban farm, and funding to construct of a new commercial kitchen.  
 

Led by Bible Center Church, this supply chain system innovation links local agriculture and business development (supplying, market assessment/marketing, quality assurance, labor cycle/training, regulations, and purchasers/pricing) to regional food procurement while creating demand by appealing to customer tastes and health needs. Working together with Homewood Children’s Village and Operation Better Block as well as other local partners, we will also promote buying local and health matters events.  

Dr. Stephanie Boddie, a Pittsburgh Food Policy Council steering committee member, and Dr. John M. Wallace, Bible Center’s senior pastor and University of Pittsburgh Professor bring together their expertise at the intersection of food, entrepreneurship and civic engagement. Key partners in the project are the Homewood Children’s Village staff Halley Ramirez, Grace Oxley, and CEO Fred Brown, and Operation Better Block staff Khalil Moore and CEO Jerome Jackson. This team has consulted with colleagues from local universities as well as national aquaponics expert JD Sawyer of Colorado Aquaponics, FreshMinistries, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Livable Future, and the Wisconsin Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition. We look forward to advancing this work with the support of the UpPrize Challenge.  

We will use the investment from Uprize to educate and train young people from various Homewood youth programs in urban farming and to fully launch the Oasis Farm and Fishery. More specifically, we will work with elementary school students from Bible Center’s The Maker’s Clubhouse Science, Technology, Engineering Agriculture and Math (STEAM) program at Faison Elementary School, Operation Better Block’s Junior Green Corps, and Homewood Children’s Village’s summer Learn and Earn students, to grow fresh produce and related products to be sold at Everyday Café. The UpPrize Social Innovation investment will launch our micro-farm and fishery by facilitating the purchase of our initial stock of tilapia and seeds, and the development of our urban farm education and entrepreneurship curriculum aimed at shortening the distance from field to fork for produce grown, prepared, sold, and eaten in Homewood.  

Supply chain approach

·         Grow food hyper-locally at the Oasis Foods Micro-farm and Fishery with farm staff as well as Operation Better Block’s Junior Green Corp, Homewood Children Village’s Learn and Earn students and other Homewood Field to Fork Initiative interns.  
·         Source leafy greens, culinary herbs, micro greens, tomatoes and specialty cucumbers at the Everyday Café.  
·         Establish and supply local/micro produce market at Everyday Café and local buying and health matters events with the support of schools, congregations, Grow Pittsburgh, Phipps Homegrown program, and the Alma Illery Health Center.  
·         Work with regional small farmers to supplement produce grown in Homewood and sold at Everyday Café to guarantee variety and year round sourcing.  
·         Work with local universities to launch the Homewood Field to Fork Initiative for future food industry employees, entrepreneurs and farmers. Program participants will serve as interns for Oasis Foods businesses – Everyday Cafe and Oasis Foods Micro-farm and fishery - while gaining hard and soft skill development and work experience. These interns will also receive weekly stipends as well as teach what they learn at quarterly community events. Each cohort will participate in each of the following tracks: urban agriculture, food service/ food safety, culinary, health and food entrepreneurship.
·         Promote local value added products created by youth participating in this program.  

Customer base

·         Everyday Café customers, particularly community residents, local commuters, business owners, and employees
·         Program interns  

Benefits

Oasis Foods will:
·         Source hyper-locally using aquaponics, hydroponics and traditional agriculture
·         Close the loop on waste products and recycle rainwater
·         Use of solar power
·         Put back into productive use several parcels of land and properties and change the street level presence
·         Incorporate and teach regenerative farming technologies to program participants and local residents
·         Preserve the cultural connections to foods across the African diaspora
·         Teach classes on urban agriculture, entrepreneurship, culinary and health matters
·         Increase knowledge of and access to fresh fruits and vegetables
·         Launch new food entrepreneurs and their products and services.  

Timeline

November 2016         Everyday Café opened
January 2017             Community classes on urban agriculture, entrepreneurship, health, etc.
March 2017                Oasis Foods Microfarm & Fishery launched
March 2017                Buying local and health matters messaging and events
April 2017                   Planning of Homewood Healthy Food Initiative internship program
June 2017                  Micro-market launched at Everyday Café
September 2017        Homewood Field to Fork Initiative (HFFI) pilot
February 2018           Homewood Field to Fork Initiative (HFFI) first cohort
September 2018        Support launch of Homewood Field to Fork Initiative participant businesses and products  

Sustainability and feasibility

Bible Center seeks to achieve a quadruple bottom line: financial, social, environmental and cultural sustainability.  

UpPrize support
The UpPrize challenge will elevate the visibility of Oasis Foods and provide additional support to fund program development for the local/micro market and planning for the Oasis Food’s Supply Chain Innovation: Shortening the Distance from Field to Fork.


Submitted

Nov 30 2016

Organization Organization Type

Nonprofit

Challenge

Healthy Food

Product Stage

Concept

Team
  • Stephanie Boddie
  • Casey Clauser
  • Dr. John M. Wallace, Jr.
  • Fred Brown
  • Jerome Jackson
Links

Contact this team about Funding, Collaboration or other methods of support. Contact Team


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