In order to create the FFAP, BFBL-GLV is currently developing an Assessment Report of our current local food economy. This report will cover the following topics:
Lehigh Valley Consumers: Who We Are and What We Eat;
Our Current Food Production;
Access to Fresh Foods in the Lehigh Valley;
Food Supply Chain & Infrastructure for Locally Grown Foods;
The Environmental Impacts of Our Food Choices; and
Local Food Economics.
There are about 650,000 people living here in the Lehigh Valley, including significant minority and low-income populations. These demographics raise issues that will need to be considered in FFAP.
In looking at what we are eating, we are spending a smaller percentage of our income on food each year and spending more on “other food” than ever before: one third of the average grocery bill is spent on prepared foods, sweeteners, candy, non-dairy fats like shortening and margarine, oils, snack foods, and soda.
The Lehigh Valley has been losing farms and farmland at an alarming rate. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, there are only 1002 farms and 153,000 acres remaining. Both counties have been working to preserve farmland: at present, 363 farms (32,000 acres) have been preserved in the two counties.
There is also an issue of whether there will be enough farmers in future years.
Access to Fresh Foods
We have eight designated food deserts in the Lehigh Valley. The USDA defines a food desert according to census tracts. Communities qualify as food deserts if they meet two criteria:
low-income communities (a poverty rate of 20 percent or more); and
low-access communities (at least 33% of the population lives greater than1 mile from a large grocery store).
You can view a map of the country's food deserts and zoom into the Lehigh Valley at the USDA website
Food Supply Chain & Infrastructure
The report will look at the assortment of businesses and relationships involved in moving food from our local farms to our tables. While we’ve been having great success with direct sales from our local farms to consumers, we are not doing so well getting local foods to wholesale buyers. Infrastructure is critical to move local food to wholesale buyers. We will examine what we have and need in terms of infrastructure to scale up our local food system.
The choices we make about the food we eat have a direct effect on our land and water. Environmental issues include pollutants from animal waste products, chemical run-off, soil erosion, and water and energy use.
Consumers in the Lehigh Valley spend $1.5 billion on food each year; less than one percent of this is purchased directly from our local farms. The result is that most of our food dollars are leaving our region through purchase of food imports. By increasing the amount of food purchased from our local growers, we can help make farming more profitable and ensure that farmland & healthy, flavorful food will be available for future generations. At the same time, we will also be investing our food dollars in our local economy and creating jobs here in the Lehigh Valley.