The local food system is comprised of a diverse array of stakeholders – small and medium sized farms, food entrepreneurs, farmers markets, small food distribution companies, food banks, and more – all of whom require right-sized infrastructure to produce, process, and distribute products and serve their customers.
Much of the existing regional food system infrastructure is either not accessible or not of the proper scale to meet the needs of small and medium farms and food businesses in our region. This includes a need for processing, packaging, dry and frozen storage, and transportation capacity, that if developed, could increase markets for locally produced products, increase access to fresh produce in under-served communities, and help to foster new relationships and opportunities among food system stakeholders.
A primary strategy identified in the Local Food Initiative is improving the food processing, storage and distribution infrastructure in King County to accommodate and increase food distribution.
This need has been well documented in the last several years by studies, needs assessments, and market evaluations conducted across the region. Building on this research and the work done by food systems stakeholders, King County and partners will further evaluate options for developing additional local food system infrastructure, including a consolidated local food facility.
Is it possible to develop a multi-functional and shared-use food facility that supports small farm and food businesses?
King County and partners have teamed up with ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm, to answer this question.
ECONorthwest provides a broad range of services at the intersection of finance, planning and economics to help inform public and private decision-making. For this project, ECONorthwest will quantify the financial feasibility of a consolidated local food facility that could provide cold and dry storage, food processing infrastructure, and serve as a distribution hub for small food and farm businesses and non-profit organizations working in the food access and food recovery sector.
Equity and environmental sustainability are the study’s guiding principles, and a primary goal is to assess how the facility could lower barriers and challenges that low-income and socially disadvantaged farmers and food entrepreneurs face in accessing food system infrastructure.
In addition, the study will assess the opportunities and costs to minimize the environmental impacts of any potential facility by using green building, renewable energy, and low-carbon fuels.
An advisory committee consisting of a broad cross section of stakeholders will help guide the project by ensuring important issues are brought to the table and addressed by the consultants, and that guiding principles are adhered to as the study progresses.
The feasibility study is the next step in turning the vision of a local food facility into a reality. Stay tuned for more details about this project as it progresses over the next year!
Images courtesy of the Local Food Initiative.