Gen-H Spotlight: Cincy Good Food Fund Series, Part 5 – Ohio Valley Food Connection

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Efforts to increase healthy food access are critical in Greater Cincinnati, where obesity and poverty are widespread and many residents have little or no access to fresh, healthy food in areas known as food deserts. Part of the Gen-H mission is to highlight and elevate the good work being done in the Greater Cincinnati community that aligns with Gen-H triple aim goals of healthier people, better care, and lower costs. The Cincy Good Food Fund is a great example of shared, aligned efforts being leveraged to maximize the availability of – and access to – healthy foods across the region.

Six organizations and initiatives were selected as recipients of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council’s Cincy Good Food Fund dollars in 2016. For this multi-part series, we’ll profile a different winning project in each weekly installment. This week, we’re featuring Ohio Valley Food Connection!

Expanded Capacity for a Better Food System*
Ohio Valley Food Connection (OVFC) provides an online marketplace and delivery system for the food-buying community to source locally across many producers at one time.

OVFC Logo

Producers are able to market their goods to local wholesale and household buyers. OVFC provides a feedback loop on supply and demand, helping to coordinate crop production to meet the needs of the community’s healthy food buyers.

OVFC currently has more than 100 restaurants and specialty food stores registered as wholesale buyers. They also offer their partners a marketing service which has more than 500 households registered as buyers, but the majority of sales are coming from restaurants at this point, says OVFC founder Alice Chalmers.

OVFC Essentials Basket Collage

Restaurant customers like seeing local foods on menus, but that’s not the only reason chefs are ordering through OVFC. “Chefs like to support local foods, but what they really like having is high-quality food that’s going to last a long time,” Chalmers explains. Since deliveries are made twice a week, chefs can serve food that is only a few days away from the farm.

Buyers can choose from a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products, as well as locally produced artisan foods such as breads, jellies, and chips. The most popular products are mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, lettuces, arugula, kale, sweet potatoes, apples, potatoes, winter squash, peppers, and cucumbers. OVFC also offers more exotic items such as quail eggs, ground buffalo, and sunflower shoots.

Buyers can choose from a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products, as well as locally produced artisan foods such as breads, jellies, and chips. The most popular products are mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, lettuces, arugula, kale, sweet potatoes, apples, potatoes, winter squash, peppers, and cucumbers. OVFC also offers more exotic items such as quail eggs, ground buffalo, and sunflower shoots.

A Fresh Approach
Having more convenient access to local food has helped chefs increase the quantity and variety of local foods on their menus. Patrick Hague, chef at Dutch’s Larder in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood, had previously sourced some local foods directly from farmers and farmers markets, but the process was time-consuming — and accounting was often messy. “Sometimes we were invoicing on paper bags,” he recalls.

Through OVFC, Hague now has a comprehensive list of what area farmers have available and a reliable supply of high-quality food. Invoicing and record-keeping is also much simpler and more precise, so he can more easily manage costs and inventories. “From a business standpoint, it’s a game-changer for us,” he says. “And it makes the numbers guys happy at the end of the month.”

Delivering to Sleepy Bee in Oakley
Delivering to Sleepy Bee in Oakley

Funding from the Cincy Good Food Fund enabled OVFC to help strengthen the local food system by increasing its capacity to bring fresh nutritious local food to households and wholesale buyers in more neighborhoods. OVFC’s expanded capacity has also enabled small farmers, restaurateurs, and local food artisans to become more successful through significantly increased market access.

About the 2016 Cincy Good Food Fund

The Cincy Good Food Fund was a program of the GCRFPC, an initiative of Green Umbrella, with support from Interact for Health, The Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, and The Meshewa Farm Foundation.

The fund was designed to financially support innovative and promising projects that can make a significant, positive impact on our food system. It helped strengthen the Greater Cincinnati regional food system by supporting healthy food-related initiatives that improve the quality of life in our region.

The Cincy Good Food Fund provided up to $10,000 for innovative projects that promote “Good Food” for our region by addressing one or more of the following GCRFPC priorities:

  • Healthy food access for residents in the region
  • Production of local foods and value‐added food products
  • Community development to support local foods and coalitions
  • Food security for residents in the region
  • Educational programs that promote healthy eating habits
  • Beneficial reuse or minimization of food waste

About the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council

The Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council’s mission is to promote a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system for all within a ten-county region of Greater Cincinnati. It provides grant support for food-related projects in our region that are innovative, impactful, and viable.

Come back next week for the final installment in our six-part series, where we’ll profile St. Leo the Great Church Community Garden and Pantry!

*Credit to Gail Keck at Ohio Farmer for some of the above content & quotes: “Chefs connect with local foods;” http://www.ohiofarmer.com/farm-operations/chefs-connect-local-foods.

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