Sharon Cech, Occidental College Urban Environmental Policy Institute


The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information visit www.mylariver.org

Occidental College's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) functions as a social change-ori- ented academic center with strong community ties, and as a community-based organization with research and policy development capacity. UEPI will work to integrate a food hub and distribution network in NELA:



I'm Sharon Cech and I'm the program manager of the regional food systems program at the Urban Environmental Policy Institute, or UEPI. UEPI is a research and advocacy organization that is run out of Occidental College. So it basically functions as a nonprofit with the mission of creating a just, livable, and green society in L.A. and beyond.

So UEPI was originally involved in NELA through my work on food hubs. A food hub is a local food system innovation, basically. And the idea of it is that it's something that helps many small scale farmers be able to sell and be competitive in wholesale and institutional markets. That means that many small and mid-sized farmers are coming together and essentially sharing infrastructure for aggregating their products, bringing their products together, distributing their products together, marketing their products, it's frequently under a single label, so basically they're overcoming a lot of these barriers that are in place in a food system that is largely geared towards industrial scale agriculture.

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I think there are definitely populations that do not have enough access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nutritious healthy foods within the project area and at the same time there are also very wealthy populations within that area and I think that also embodies much of what we're trying to do with the food hub, much of the local food and the local food business is geared towards a higher end audience that's in restaurants, folks that are really willing to pay a premium to really have a restaurant that only serves local food. But what we're really hoping to do with the food hub whether it would be a for-profit or non-profit structure is figure out a mechanism to actually use some of that profit to then be able to reach some communities that have less access to food so we could actually internally fund projects to get more healthy food in local school districts.


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