Is healthier food in the Lehigh Valley possible? Area groups come together to see
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — A healthier, more balanced food system is in the works for the Lehigh Valley.
Groups from different sectors are coming together to make nutritious options more readily available throughout the area.
- Trying to make the healthier choice into the easy choice is the goal of a new initiative in the Lehigh Valley
- Seven local partners teamed up to bring more nutritious options to those who live here
- The initiative will involve many community sectors and take time to implement
The Kellyn Foundation, Bethlehem Area School District, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Penn State Extension, Rodale Institute, Bethlehem Food Co-Op and Second Harvest Food Bank will come together for the initiative.
They plan to develop a food infrastructure in the Lehigh Valley that can provide locally grown and produced food to the people who live here.
“It will take many partners and many years to accomplish this goal, but we are determined to start the journey today,” said Eric Ruth, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Kellyn Foundation.
“Nothing will grow until a seed is planted.”
'Achieving a sustainable food system'
Ruth said the program would have to be a community effort to be successful.
“This would include farmers, manufacturers, processors, distribution, institutional buyers, neighborhoods and individual consumers, along with the support of governmental, nonprofit and for-profit entities,” he said.
The Kellyn Foundation goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice in communities and to make health living part of everyday life.
“Ensuring everyone has access to nutritious, fresh, healthy food every day is one of those core necessities that can make a difference in the global health of an entire community.”Lehigh Valley Health Network Administrator of Food and Nutrition Services Kathy Reznik
Those who work there do that by teaming up with a number of organizations in a given area.
From a healthcare perspective, Lehigh Valley Health Network's Administrator of Food and Nutrition Services Kathy Reznik said, “Ensuring everyone has access to nutritious, fresh, healthy food every day is one of those core necessities that can make a difference in the global health of an entire community.”
Other participants in the effort also weighed in.
“Having commitments from key community partners goes a long way to achieving a sustainable food system in the Lehigh Valley," Penn State Extension’s Brian Moyer said.
'Greater food security' for everyone
Bethlehem Food Co-Op Chairwoman Carol Ritter said, “To build and maintain a diverse community with healthful and affordable food, a local, sustainable, food system needs to exist.”
“Having a strong local food system means greater food security for everyone living in our region."Allison Czapp, associate executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank
Allison Czapp, associate executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said, “Having a strong local food system means greater food security for everyone living in our region.
"We can’t do that without deep commitment from all sectors to build the infrastructure and capacity to take our local food system to the next level."
Those from the different industries agreed to move forward with a goal of making their communities healthier by pledging to:
- Transform from a current focus on hunger to a broader focus of individual health for all
- Develop a fair and equitable process with local farmers to expand their wholesale production, matching supply and planned demand
- Identify and share entrepreneurial opportunities needed to build the local system
- Include and embrace additional partners
- Maintain a transparent and open strategy throughout the process.
"The real focus right now is to show that we can build a business relationship from a 'B-to-B' [business to business] side in the wholesale world that will grow into becoming a food infrastructure in the Lehigh Valley that can sustain the Lehigh Valley in the future," Ruth said.
The Kellyn Foundation will assist Lehigh Valley industries in partnering with local farmers. The hope is those farmers will start growing the produce that's in demand over the winter months, so the corporate partners can be stocked in the spring.