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Supporting Food Production Networks

Investigating Farm To Restaurant Relationships in Worcester 

Faculty Advisors: Robert Hersh, Suzanne LePage, Elizabeth Stoddard
Student Researchers: Kevin Barry, John Crawford, Liam Fisher, Ryan Holmes

There has been an increased demand for local food across the United States for more than a decade. Yet as the local food movement is increasing, many restaurants have not exploited this opportunity. We examined the feasibility of restaurants’ involvement in the Worcester, MA local food network. To increase restaurant participation in using local food we found that there
must be an available and convenient method of ordering and delivery. Restaurants as a direct-to-consumer avenue for farms need local food suppliers to be visible, accessible, and price conscious. Also to further facilitate the “farm to restaurant” relationship strategies employing mutual marketing techniques can be used to add value to the products and inform the community.

Worcester Food Assessment — Production and Distribution

Faculty Advisors: Robert Hersh
Student Researchers: Adam Donovan Kaczmarek, James Thomas Ventola, Yunxin Chen

Community food assessments constitute a first step in planning for food security. This study for the Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council, examined food production resources in Worcester as well as distribution networks, such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture, and community gardens. Our goal was to help our sponsor better understand the local food system and to identify opportunities to increase the availability of nutritious and healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.

Worcester Food Hub Commercial Kitchen Profitability

Faculty Advisors: Robert W. Traver, Jian Zou
Student Researchers: Ashley Rae Nistler, Michael J. Vaitkunas, Nicholas A. Comei, Thomas M. Danko

The project determined the profitability of the commercial kitchen at the Worcester Regional Food Hub using market and financial analyses. The market analysis was developed using the results from research, stakeholder interviews, and a public interest survey in Worcester. This analysis revealed there was a high demand for trained culinary professionals, certifications, business classes, and value-added product services in Worcester County. The financial analysis, derived from the estimated costs and revenue of the kitchen, illustrated that the profitability of a commercial kitchen depends on the number of tenants and frequency of use. Other products of this research include recommended pricing schemes, kitchen requirements, culinary programs, marketing, and expansion strategies.

Harvesting for Health: Optimizing Farm Operations for a Local Nonprofit

Faculty Advisors: Corey Dehner, Purvi Shah
Student Researchers: Abigail Hanson, Garrett James Peters, Rose Gougian, Seungjoon Lee

The goal of this project was to collaborate with Community Harvest Project (CHP) to comparatively analyze similar organizations, and to optimize operations in nutrition education, tracking produce distribution, managing partner relationships, volunteers, and community outreach. Through 15 interviews with similar nonprofit organizations, and four CHP staff interviews, we ascertained that CHP serves as a model for many organizations, however still has areas they wish to improve upon. Our team developed a number of recommendations largely focused on the expansion of CHP’s current working strategies rather than creating new programs. Our final deliverable involved giving our data to CHP in a presentable and usable manner.

Developing a Sustainable Pricing Strategy for the Worcester Regional Food Hub

Faculty Advisors: Corey Dehner
Student Researchers: Benjamin Russell Aldrich, Fatin Alkhaledi, Gregory Pelland, Jonathan Thomas Toomey

The Worcester Regional Food Hub’s mission is to promote healthy, local agriculture by making locally grown food accessible to all members of the Worcester Community. However, the Food Hub’s current pricing strategy does not cover their operational costs. For the Food Hub to remain sustainable for the long-term, we worked with them to develop a pricing strategy. We assessed the Food Hub’s current operations and pricing strategy and compared it to other food hubs. We interviewed five food hubs, the Food Hub’s farmers, and their institutional customers. We compiled their responses in a comparative matrix and used this to develop recommendations for the Food Hub. We also created two promotional videos, one targeting Food Hub customers and the other targeting potential Food Hub suppliers.

From Food Bank to Food Hub: Challenges and Opportunities

Faculty Advisors: Michael B. Elmes, Robert Hersh
Student Researchers: Anny Evelen Cunha, Haley Elizabeth Morgan, Michael Joseph Moroney, Sonia Armida Banegas Nunez

Our study, which was sponsored by the Worcester County Food Bank, assessed partnerships between food banks and food hubs in various locations of the United States. The majority of our data was collected through phone interviews with staff members at four different food hub/food bank partnerships. The study conducted proved that various resources, infrastructure, partnerships, and networks can be shared between food banks and food hubs. This partnership between food banks and food hubs has the ability to facilitate increased access of healthy, locally grown food.

Community Food Project

Faculty Advisors: Michael B. Elmes
Student Researchers: Justin Neal Mathews

This report was prepared for Community Harvest Project Inc. (CHP) located in Grafton, MA. CHP has plans to expand from Grafton to Hopkinton, MA. This report examines three aspects that CHP must consider when the second location opens. The three aspects examined were analysis of volunteer data, historical data, and identification of key stakeholders. Based on data collected, recommendations were made by the team to CHP on how to prepare for the opening of the second location.