The partners will recruit ten (10) farming enterprises by working through the Clemson’s Extension Services in Beaufort County. Participants must own a farming operation with limited access to traditional marketing channels, and must be willing to grow vegetable crops.
The coordinating partners will seek to establish a training/demonstration farm, where participants can attend group training sessions, experiment with organic farming methods and pilot collaborative activities (e.g. farm/crop rotations).
Clemson’s FSR&D team will orchestrate rapid appraisals over a two month period each year. The team will analyze all aspects of the farm’s operations, generate written improvement plans, assist each farmer in reaching specific goals, and refer farmers to cost-effective resources.
The FSR&D team leader will engage all participants in work sessions to review how the community food system interacts, shares inputs, serves complementary functions, creates outputs and meets outcomes. The partners will determine economically viable strategies for the project.
In the second year, the partners will create and implement a direct, niche marketing plan targeted to retail merchants. This plan will include three components: 1) cause-related branding to create public awareness of local food issues; 2) a marketing/distribution component analyzing the effectiveness of system channels; and 3) a comprehensive public relations campaign.
The partners will create a regional Advisory Council consisting of all stakeholder populations, including farmers, non-profit feeding programs, food industry leaders, and philanthropists. The Advisory Council will meet quarterly to establish policy, and to assist in resource building.
The Lowcountry Food Bank will recruit 25 non-profit feeding programs to participate through its network of 400 member agencies. The LCFB’s Agency Relations Department will solicit applications from organizations interested in the project, including 10 faith-based organizations. The Executive Director will choose ten programs based on the organization’s access to vulnerable populations, and commitment to the project.
Each non-profit organization will complete and sign an “Intent to Participate” Agreement consenting to the project’s terms and conditions for three years. The LCFB will conduct inventories of each program’s capacity to deliver nutritious meals and nutrition education. Katherine Cason, the FSR&D teams’ food scientist and a registered dietician, will assist the Lowcountry Food Bank in determining the criteria needed for these assessments working with the newly hired nutritionist at the Food Bank.
The Lowcountry Food Bank, its national partner America’s Second Harvest, and Mathematica Policy Research are conducting a Hunger Study to understand food insecurity in the Lowcountry, using widespread volunteer-conducted interviews. Clemson University will analyze the South Carolina data to determine consumptive patterns that are similar to the target population.
The LCFB’s Agency Relations Department will assist each non-profit partner in the development and completion of individual improvement plans. Upon reaching their objectives, the program will award incentives, including refrigerators, commercial cooking supplies and other resources needed to reach program outcomes.
Program partners will also conduct a minimum of twelve technical assistance and educational opportunities for selected non-profits, with a target of 98% participation in three sessions, receiving ratings of good to excellent. Topics covered will include storage, preparation, sanitation, nutrition education, food distribution and evaluation. Nutrition education experts will assist each non-profit partner in creating education and behavior change programs.
Growing Food Locally will serve as a powerful catalyst in providing nutritious food to vulnerable populations, job-training to unemployed individuals, and the development of replicable educational models. For example, the 100 bushels of crops produced each year by Kids Feeding Kids will be distributed to the Community Kitchen program. The Community Kitchen program will produce 75,000 meals (3 meals weekly x 500 children x 50 weeks) for low-income schoolchildren through the LCFB’s local Kids Café programs.
The Project Directors and Evaluator will attend the required training meetings in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, as scheduled by USDA. Based on training received, they will make adjustments to the proposed program goals and evaluation components. The evaluator will submit reports to the Project Director. The Project Director will submit annual reports to USDA.
Upon receiving clearance from Clemson University’s Internal Review Board (IRB) regarding the protection of human subjects, the partners will convene farmers and other stakeholders for all major components of the evaluation process. This process is detailed under Section VII: Evaluation and Assessment.
Through the annual systems analysis, strategic review and planning sessions, all stakeholders will be involved in the development of a three-year strategic plan. The LCFB’s Development Department will create, with the Advisory Council’s assistance, a fundraising component. In addition, the LCFB will assist each non-profit partner in planning their own fundraising activities.