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Scaling the Good Food Supply Chain via a Mid-Atlantic Food Port

Creating a distributed network that increases the amount of regenerative, source-identified Good Food grown and eaten in the Mid-Atlantic.

Photo of Natalie Vandenburgh

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

4P Foods

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Local Food Hub - small NGO, grower services and food access; The Piedmont Environmental Council - small NGO, rural economic development and conservation; Food Works Group - small company, food systems consultant; Blueprint Local - investment-based organization, impact investing; YMCA of Greater Washington - large NGO, food and nutrition education and assistance; Living Pastures Farm - farmer co-op or farmer business organization, grass-fed beef producer; DC Central Kitchen - large NGO, workforce development and food access

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Warrenton, Virginia

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Mid-Atlantic, a region well-suited to a strong, sustainable, and self-sufficient food system where producers and consumers both thrive.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

4P Foods has been hard at work in the Mid-Atlantic since 2014, when we made our first deliveries of multi-farm CSA shares in the D.C. area. But founder Tom McDougall’s relationship to this place and its food system is much longer and deeply personal. Tom grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley, on a farm that was--heartbreakingly, and like so many others--eventually lost to urbanization and consolidation. His father’s lifelong career in grocery gave him an inside perspective on the massive consolidation of that industry, as well, and his own career eventually brought him to local food and food hubs. Given the Mid-Atlantic’s unique character as a place of both dense urban corridors and large agricultural stretches, with a range of growing seasons from north to south, he ultimately came to see a regional food system as the means to scale Good Food. 

We define Good Food as food that provides nourishment and enables people to thrive, is produced in a manner that is environmentally regenerative, comes from a supply chain in which no being was exploited, and is equitably accessible to all. Good Food is currently almost exclusively found at the local level, and unevenly distributed at that, but the world needs Good Food on a transformative, global scale. We believe that a Mid-Atlantic food port is the way to achieve that goal in our Place. 

Along with our partners, 4P is building the foundation of what we hope will grow into our Vision of this Mid-Atlantic food port. Collectively, we have connections to many thousands of buyers and consumers; hundreds of farmers and producers; and dozens of processors, aggregators, and distributors; and we believe that our envisioned food port will meet the needs of our region well. 4P Foods and Food Works Group conducted a Mid-Atlantic Food Port Feasibility Study in 2018, and the data from that study will be referenced throughout this proposal to demonstrate the state of the current regional food system and the goals of the People within it.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

We define the Mid-Atlantic loosely as New York; Pennsylvania; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; West Virginia; and North Carolina. Given its scale (about half a million square kilometers) and patchwork of massive population centers (New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., among others), sprawling suburbia, and broad swaths of rural or uninhabited land, it contains a huge diversity of geography, culture, and industry. 

Stretching from the Adirondack Mountains in the north and west to the Outer Banks barrier islands in the south, the Mid-Atlantic comprises a range of landscapes, ecosystems, and climates. It contains nearly all of the Northeast megalopolis, a stretch of urban centers along the eastern seaboard from Boston to Washington, D.C. that houses nearly 17% of the US population on less than 2% of its land, with an economic output that would make it the 7th largest country in the world (CityLab).

Home to many Native American tribes before colonization, the Mid-Atlantic has hosted a diverse and ever-changing mix of immigrants from colonization to today. According to 2018 estimates from the US Census Bureau, about 16% of the Mid-Atlantic’s 59.73 million people are foreign-born, about half of whom are naturalized citizens. The four largest racial groups include non-Hispanic white (61%), Hispanic or Latino (18%), black or African American (13%), and Asian (5%). 

Though less than 2% of the Mid-Atlantic population works in agriculture (USCB), nearly a quarter of its land (36 million acres) is in production (USDA NASS). According to the American Farmland Trust, urban and suburban sprawl in the Mid-Atlantic are driving up land prices and contributing to some of the greatest farmland losses in the country, including 7% in the DC metro area between 2002 and 2007 alone (MWCOG). 

The region produces an enormous variety of plant and animal foods from both land and sea, including regional gems like Virginia peanuts or Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Agricultural production is dominated by commodity crops (primarily soybeans, corn, and wheat), plus hay and livestock. Mirroring the rest of the country, the number of very small producers (<10 acres) has been increasing in recent years, but so has the number of very large farms (>2,000 acres), indicating that mid-size farms are being lost to consolidation (USDA NASS). Small-scale farmers in some areas have the opportunity to sell into large urban markets, but accessing those markets can be inefficient or even impossible and can leave rural areas without access to the food grown in their own communities. 

Issues of food access play out not only along urban-rural lines, but also within urban communities, where food apartheid in places like Washington, D.C. means that some neighborhoods are inundated with corner stores and fast food but lack a full-service grocery store. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The Mid-Atlantic food system faces challenges from farm to table and beyond, and many of those challenges will intensify over the next thirty years. A volatile, changing climate poses an ever-increasing threat to farmers. While milder winters may provide some benefit by extending the growing season, more extreme weather will pose far greater risks, not only to individual farms but also to the resilience of the regional food system overall. Another threat to farm viability is the many barriers (from food safety certifications to distribution) on the path to getting food from a small farm to a buyer who is willing to pay a fair price for it. American agricultural policy generally encourages farmers to “get big or get out,” which has detrimental effects on rural communities, biodiversity, and diets. 

Maintaining farmland in the face of large and growing urban centers will be increasingly challenging. Soaring land prices make it difficult for farmers to stay on their land or for new farmers to acquire land, a reality made even worse by the aging out of the current farmer population. When small- to midsize farms started disappearing over the last several decades, the support businesses and infrastructure they relied on followed suit, meaning that farmers today might be limited by the ability to have their animals processed or find storage for their heritage wheat, for example. They may have to travel many miles to do so, which either eats into their profits or drives up their prices. The former diminishes farm viability, the latter food accessibility. 

The primary outputs of the Mid-Atlantic food system mirror the primary ingredients of the processed food industry: corn, soy, and wheat. These crops are typically so processed and refined by the time they are eaten, they can hardly be called plants. While the processed foods that are making America sicker than ever dominate the landscape, the minimally processed foods that most experts can agree we should grow and eat more of are often both difficult for farmers to make a living off of and for buyers to access. 

Limited food access stems from geographic, financial, and cultural barriers. Whether urban or rural, many areas have insufficient or unevenly distributed food retailers, at least of the Good Food variety. When these retailers do exist, the cost of Good Food can be prohibitive, and even if not, many people struggle to find the time and knowledge (i.e. cooking) required to eat it. 

Another barrier to a thriving Good Food system is having a regional supply chain robust enough to connect small farmers with markets at appropriate scales and price points. Food hubs do a lot of good in this regard, but they tend to face a common set of struggles: seasonal sales slumps; insufficient scale to make profitable investments in processing, storage, or distribution; and lack of volume at certain times of year and excess volume at others. Food hubs acting in isolation lead to inefficiencies for the hubs and higher prices for their buyers, making it difficult for hubs to stay in business or buyers to meaningfully increase  their local procurement. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our Vision is of a Mid-Atlantic food port that addresses the challenges listed above by removing the barriers that keep the Good Food system small, while maintaining the values that make it Good. The food port will grow out of a network of food hubs and other supply chain actors, creating a larger, distributed network that bridges the gaps in the current Good Food supply chain through scale, technology (production planning, inventory management, logistics, routing), and physical infrastructure (aggregation, storage, processing, distribution).

Just as industrial agriculture has contributed significantly to climate change and environmental degradation, regenerative agriculture has an important part to play in reversing them. Regenerative agriculture will fundamentally change the impact that farming has on the environment, changing it from a carbon source to a carbon sink and halting or reversing negative impacts on air, water, and ecosystem quality. The food port will create a transparent supply chain that identifies and values food not only for what it is, but also who grew it, where, and how, so that farmers have a viable alternative to the industrial monoculture system. With efficient access to markets and the ability to sell to buyers who care about the provenance and production of their food, regenerative, diversified farming—rooted in healthy soils and ecosystems—will become the norm. 

This Vision will also help small- to mid-scale farms remain on the land in the face of urban sprawl and farm consolidation. As regional food production and procurement become ingrained in the economy and everyday life, maintaining farmland will become a higher cultural and political priority. Growers and support businesses will thrive in tandem, and rural communities will experience a revival as productive hubs. 

A food port as envisioned will also better serve communities that have been left behind by the current food system. Whereas low-income and rural communities are often unable to attract mainstream food retailers, this new decentralized (but highly interconnected) Good Food system will leverage a variety of paths to market, from retailers of all sizes to CSA models to farmers markets, to meet the needs of communities. Scaling Good Food to reach institutional purchasers will also increase food access by bringing Good Food to the places where people eat on a day-to-day basis, like schools, workplaces, and hospitals.

The food port will address the barriers that buyers face to purchasing more Good Food. Better technology will lower or eliminate the transaction costs that tend to come with buying local, making the procurement process as easy as ordering from a large distributor. By more efficiently using existing infrastructure and building out additional infrastructure as needed, buyers will be able to get the food they need—whether it be whole or processed, fresh or frozen—when they need it, without having to source from outside the region.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our Vision is of a thriving Mid-Atlantic Good Food economy based around food that is regeneratively produced and sustainably consumed within the region, contributing to the economic, environmental, cultural, and public health of the Place and People. 

There will be a diverse and growing population of small- to mid-scale farmers and producers connecting to the right-size processors, aggregators, distributors, and buyers they need to thrive. Farming will be highly valued as a career and use of land, causing farmland loss to slow or even stop. By increasing the number of farmers, diversifying who farms, keeping more food dollars within the region, and sending more of each dollar back to the farmer, rural communities will be economically and culturally revived. Monoculture will cover less (if any) of the landscape, and regenerative growing practices will be widespread, improving the health of the region’s water, soil, and ecosystems and mitigating climate change.

As Good Food becomes the norm, it will be a connector of rural and urban communities and everything in between. For consumers, there will be many convenient ways to buy regionally and regeneratively produced food, whether online or in person, at a farmers market or grocery store. For institutions, retailers, and foodservice, sourcing Good Food will be easy and commonplace. No longer constrained by cumbersome processes or insufficient volume, they will be able to count on the food port for the variety, quality, and reliability they need, at prices that can compete with (or more realistically, complement) those of traditional broadliners. By making Good Food as widespread and easily accessible as processed food, People’s diets and public health will significantly improve.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Home to a robust food port network by 2050, the Mid-Atlantic will have a responsive and resilient regional food system that serves both urban and rural communities and shifts billions of food dollars from the opaque and industrial food supply chain to producers of Good Food. The food port we envision will recognize, elevate, and serve the People and Places where food is produced and consumed because it is ultimately created and driven by them. A Good Food supply chain of unprecedented scale, the food port will provide tens of thousands of farmers and producers with the ability to connect to many millions of consumers. The relationships and incentives of this new system will have the potential to transform communities into economically and environmentally sustainable Places that nourish the People within them.

What actually is the food port? What will it consist of? 

The food port will be made up of a distributed network of supply chain actors, all the way from producers to buyers, connected by technology and infrastructure. A distributed network has no central decisionmakers, so all of the nodes in the network have the ability to access the data within the network and act independently. A technology platform will underlay and enable the food port system, connecting existing assets (such as food hubs, processors, co-packers, etc) and increasing efficiency all along the supply chain. 

The Mid-Atlantic food port will grow out of the enormous diversity of farmers and foods and communities in the region. The food port will grow stronger as more nodes (farmers, food hubs, local food policy councils, institutional buyers, etc) join the network and more connections develop between the nodes. A distributed network of this kind is the right model to create a regional Good Food system because it is created and driven by the individual nodes and not centrally controlled. 

The wealth of data running through the technology platform will enable effective production planning and inventory and logistics management for producers and buyers, yet its decentralized model will allow it to remain flexible, resilient, and responsive to producers, communities, and buyers, large and small. By transparently connecting farmers and buyers, the food port will allow producers to access an enormous range of markets and buyers with varying sourcing goals, from hyper-local to certified organic. We anticipate that buyers will still be sensitive to price, but by 2050 it will be a lesser factor, as values and quality become more important in the sourcing process. 

The food port will build upon the existing, nascent Good Food systems across the Mid-Atlantic and take them from a niche, often privileged level to a universally accessible, regional level by 2050. Connected via technology, independent supply chain actors will be able to access and share information and find services/buyers/markets that meet their needs. When needs are not met, asset mapping within the technology platform will bring infrastructure and other gaps to light. This system enables supply and demand to grow in tandem and enables individual systems to flourish locally while also interconnecting with other systems, creating a larger regional network that can function across both levels. 

How would the food port serve the People and Place now, and how will it do so in 2050?

In today’s 2020 world, producers, distributors, and buyers know that they need better technology to function more effectively independently and across different levels of the value chain, and the food port will allow them to do so. Farmers in the region overwhelmingly (73%) identified selling more volume within the region as their number business goal, and over half (52.3%) of them cited connection to buyers as one of their main obstacles to success (see attached charts of survey responses from feasibility study). On the consumer side, there is growing awareness of the negative impacts of the industrial agriculture and food systems, but there are considerable knowledge and access barriers that make alternative systems difficult to support. 

In contrast, by 2050, transparency that now seems radical will be the norm. All food has a story behind it, but now that story will be knowable by anyone who buys or eats it. From how and where it was grown and by whom to when it was harvested and where it has been since then, data that is now inaccessible will be available, allowing for true values-based purchasing. Equitably accessible data will benefit all parties in the long run. Consumers will buy food that comes from the kind of food system they want to support, and buyers will do the same, with the added benefit that they will have a better understanding of what their customers want and actually be able to procure it at scale. For farmers, this level of transparency will mean that they can be paid for the true cost of producing their food regeneratively and fairly. There is tension between producers getting paid a fair price and consumers affording Good Food, but in the case of community-based Good Food systems, a rising tide will hopefully lift all boats. The regional economy will flourish as more food dollars stay local, and that wealth will circulate throughout communities.

A Good Food system based in regenerative farming will vastly change the Mid-Atlantic environment, landscape, agriculture, and people’s attitudes toward them. Farmland will serve the dual purposes of food production and carbon sequestration, and for both of those reasons will be highly valued. Farming will be a respected and viable career for people from all walks of life, and collective cultural knowledge of food and farming will increase as agriculture becomes less consolidated and more widely and deeply intertwined the People and this Place. 

As a result of this greater knowledge, as well as vastly improved Good Food availability, diets will naturally improve. People will have constant access to regionally, regeneratively produced, minimally processed food, no matter where they live, work, study, or shop. Fresh, whole foods will no longer be a marker of privilege, but will be available to all, including vulnerable populations like schoolchildren, prisoners, and people in nursing homes. As a result, incidence of diet-related diseases will plummet. 

Agricultural policy will shift to support this new regional food system, and because of its scale, these changes can happen at local, state, and national levels. Some possible policy changes include a higher federal reimbursement rate for school meals including regionally produced food, making CSAs eligible for SNAP or EBT easier to use online, expanding produce prescription programs through Medicare and Medicaid, and reforming crop insurance to support small fruit and vegetable growers. 

A Good Food Transformation

On a concrete level, the Mid-Atlantic food port as envisioned will represent a radical transformation of how food is grown, processed, purchased, and consumed in the region, all of which changes will grow out of and in turn affect communities, technology, policy, and economics. These changes will have tangible, measurable, and critically necessary impacts: Agriculture will become a carbon sink. Farmland loss will cease. The number and kinds of farms and farmers will increase. Wealth will flow to small- and mid-scale farmers and their communities. Good Food businesses will flourish. All people will be able to choose and access Good Food and will be healthier for it.

But on a more intangible level, it will shift the value and role of food and farming in Mid-Atlantic society. Food will connect urban and rural, farmers and eaters, People and Place. Farming will be recognized as a professional path that is desirable and deserving of esteem and respect. Good Food will be a right, not a privilege. We, along with our partners, have every hope and intention of making this Vision a reality.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

Based on the work in the Refinement Phase, our restated Vision follows:

Build a flexible, adaptable Good Food Net capable of feeding the entire Mid-Atlantic region equitably and sustainably by 2050

Good Food provides nourishment and enables people to thrive, is equitably accessible to everyone in the region, is produced in a manner that is environmentally regenerative, comes from a supply chain in which every being is treated with respect and dignity, and improves health outcomes and economic security for all.

The Food Net consists of interdependent communities of people, who create and support Good Food, connecting, coordinating, and learning through technology to build a robust, resilient food supply with multiple entry points and pathways to ensure Good Food always finds its way to people’s bellies.

We describe how our Vision evolved and expanded in the Vision Summary.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

In response to the pandemic, 4P Foods spearheaded the creation of the Mid-Atlantic Food Access and Resilience Coalition (MAFRAC) to connect food from regional farmers with organizations providing emergency food to the community, piloting our vision in real time with limited technology.

We provided as many (virtual) venues as possible for partners to participate:

MAFRAC – six, weekly one-hour meetings from 4/24-5/29 with weekly updates on FSVP progress – continuing indefinitely

Visioning Sessions – three, two-hour facilitated workshops (5/13, 5/19, 5/23)

1:1 Meetings – ½- to 1-hour discussions to address key issues 5/8–5/28

Partners who participated in the refinement process for at least ten hours include: Food Works Group, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, DC Greens, Dreaming Out Loud, Local Food Hub, Montgomery County Food Council, YMCA of Greater Washington.

Additional information can be found in 4P Foods FSVP Partner and Stakeholder Engagement spreadsheet.

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

Stakeholders were invited to participate in the events described above. MAFRAC participants were updated at the weekly meetings. For a more complete description of the steps taken, see the fully refined Vision Summary.

Participated in MAFRAC meetings:

Green Scheme


Future Harvest CASA

Prince George’s Food Equity Council (Institute for Public Health Innovation)

Loudon Hunger Relief

Shalom Farms

Virginia Community Food Connections

Participated in at least one Visioning Session or 1:1 Meeting:


Virginia Cooperative Extension – Virginia Tech

Participated in MAFRAC and at least one Visioning Session or 1:1 Meeting:

Bread for the City

Culinary Concepts AB

DC Central Kitchen

In addition, many of the principles of our Vision were discussed with our ten food hub partners when we formed the Eastern Food Hub Collaborative in March.

For organizational missions and time investment for all partners and stakeholders, see Supporting Spreadsheet: 4P Foods FSVP Partner and Stakeholder Engagement.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

In our Place, our planet and our People are suffering.

The 2018 State of the Bay report gave restoration efforts a D+ in large measure due to the “extraordinary weather [that] flushed enormous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and debris… off our lands and into the Bay.” The exceptional rain events during the summer of 2019, including a record 3.3 inches in one hour at Reagan National Airport, reflect a long-term trend that combines an increase in number and intensity of heavy precipitation events with more intense droughts. Without regenerative agricultural practices, more of our precious soil will be lost as climate change intensifies, making our diminishing arable acreage less productive.

Virginia lost 31% of total farmland, 5.7 million acres, between 1960 and 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, Virginia lost 3,182 mid-sized farms, and the small and large farms that remain struggle to be profitable for more than a season at a time.13% of what Virginia’s farms produce, nearly $9B in total output, is exported into uncertain and cost-competitive international markets, and while many smaller farmers command retail prices through CSAs and farmers markets, they still struggle to make a living. With real wages stagnant since the mid-1960s, fewer people can afford this Good Food–or even have access to it–with every passing year. In Philadelphia, 25% of youth and 30% of adults get one serving or less of fruits and vegetables per day, and the rate of deaths from heart disease is 19% higher than for Pennsylvania as a whole. Similar situations exist in Washington DC and other large cities in our region. Across the country, 30-40% of the food we produce is wasted, while 12% of our population is food insecure.

Most people sacrifice at least some of their values to feed themselves. We want to put values front and center and follow the signals emerging from the grassroots of our communities:

Healing the ecosystem with regenerative agriculture. Future Harvest Casa provides educational resources to nurture new farmers and support regenerative agriculture

Engaging the health system to increase access to Good Food. An increasing number of “Food as Medicine” initiatives, including DC Greens Produce Rx Program and Local Food Hub’s Fresh Farmacy program, are using health dollars to get the right food to the people that would not otherwise be able to afford it

Safeguarding food security through proactive policy. Montgomery County Food Council’s Food Security Plan enabled rapid scale up of retail outlets for local producers to buffer vulnerable populations from supply shortages

Enabling collaborative economies through technology. Get Shift Done is using their app to connect furloughed food workers with organizations in need of volunteers to process and pack emergency food for distribution

 We will come back to these green shoots in the following sections to show how they can be woven together to improve the well being of our Place and our People.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

A Day In the Life of a Tomato

As the first rays of the sun slant over the horizon, I enjoy the feel of the dew on my skin. It was cool last night–for the first time in over a week, the temperature fell below 25°C. Today is going to be hot, though–almost 40°. I have been bred for heat, but I enjoy the dew while I can.

Agribots are picking in the row of tomato plants across from me. Honeybees buzz around the clover covering the ground below me. A woman with skin the color of walnuts approaches through the clover followed by an agribot with a wooden tray. She scans a microtag on the stake in front of my mother with her phone, reads the screen and smiles. She considers me and my sisters, reaches out, and plucks me from my stem. She places me in one of the padded compartments in the tray, and the robot affixes a tiny microtag to my side.

Over the next hour other tomatoes nestle into their beds around me. The agribot puts a cover over the tray, and we are carried, then placed on a surface. Things are still for a long while, then we are moving though I am sure we are not being carried.

When we come to a stop, the cover is removed, and an agribot places our tray on a moving surface. We glide along and then stop. A screen above me shows details about each one of us such as the acidity of the soil we grew in, the amount of rain that fell, and the name of the woman who picked me. A long way away, other tomatoes are being scanned. Some are diverted to a ramp that drops them into a huge vat. We get a nice shower before being covered once again.

After moving for a long time, we stop, get carried, set down, and the cover is removed. Bubbling cauldrons and white plates surround us. A man with ebony skin and a tall white hat peers down at us. He passes his phone over us, then he reaches for me, cups me in his warm hands, and smells me. He sets me down on a wooden board and reaches for a wide-bladed knife.

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

Climate change poses devastating risks to systems we depend upon, from agriculture to energy to water. These threats, combined with rising consumption from a growing population, intensify the pressure to design a future where humans and natural ecosystems can harmoniously coexist. There are myriad solutions connected to food, agriculture, and land use that are already in practice and can be further scaled to support our Vision of providing Good Food to all People by 2050. But in a changing climate, the system must also facilitate experimentation, learning, and adoption so it can rapidly adapt to challenges we cannot foresee.

The Good Food Net consists of the physical network of assets that bring Good Food to markets, the community of interdependent actors that support that system, and networks of policymaking, capital, and knowledge that nurture it. A user-friendly, seamless technology platform enables this Net, creating economies of collaboration that can challenge economies of scale. Through this network of networks, we will be able to build a Good Food safety net that is flexible and strong, designed to connect with other regional networks as they develop, and able to adapt to the warmer climate of 2050. The Good Food Net acts as a region-wide incubator to experiment with breakthrough solutions, collaborate with far-flung partners, seed good ideas to new areas, and connect to capital for successful innovations.

Supporting and elevating producers that use better agriculture practices and protect ecosystems is one of the core values of the Good Food Net. These producers can play a key role in helping draw down CO2, reduce emissions, conserve and regenerate land, and protect natural ecosystems. In its first ten years, the Good Food Net would focus on increasing the demand for Good Food and putting in place the infrastructure to assist the regional supply chain in scaling to meet it. In the Diets and Policy sections we address how we intend to increase demand. On the supply side, our partners work with hundreds of farmers and growers who share these values, but because many of them face difficulties in meeting certification requirements, they may not be captured in reporting on organic agriculture. Our first step in moving forward is asset mapping and needs assessment–the Mid-Atlantic Food Port Assessment linked to our submission provides a proposed road map.

We cannot talk about climate change and overall environmental degradation without addressing two key drivers: population growth and consumption patterns. The first will be touched upon under the Economy section and the second in the Diets section.

Many of our growers are implementing solutions that could be replicated across our region. Food System Vision Prize (FSVP) semifinalist Sylvanaqua Farms is pioneering innovative land lease and ownership structures to increase arable agricultural land. They use indigenous models of land management to build an agricultural system focused on perennial plants, improved biodiversity, multistory harvests, and extracting a yield from existing woodland biomes. This wealth of diversity combined with regenerative practices designed to preserve and improve the soil will serve as a hedge against increasing extremes in weather while supporting carbon sequestration and the reduction of emissions. Living Pastures Farm focuses on regenerating soil health through good grazing practices. Cattle are moved at least once per day to a new paddock, mimicking the natural movement of wild herds of ruminants. Not overgrazing any given area has, beneficial effects, improving plant diversity, water retention capacity, increased soil carbon and organic matter content, plant nutrient density.

Research partners designing new or improved practices also support the vision of our Good Food Net. The University of Maryland’s program in Urban Forestry prepares its graduates to manage the urban tree canopy to reduce the carbon footprint of cities and slow global warming, lower energy use in buildings and homes through proper tree selection and maintenance, and protect waterways from excessive storm water run-off by replacing paved surfaces with plants and trees. Virginia Tech’s genetic research has so far focused on making row crops more weather and pest resistant. Those same techniques applied to specialty crops will create varieties able to survive and thrive in the changing environment.

These initiatives mark the first steps along a pathway toward maintaining our Place’s agricultural productivity in a changing climate. The interconnectedness and flexibility of our Good Food Net supports the growth of farms incorporating regenerative practices and knowledge sharing among innovation and policy partners. The more the Good Food Net grows, the stronger the role it can play in contributing to a more robust and resilient food system.

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Malnutrition in our People takes the form of overweight and obesity which lead to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and to an increased risk for many different types of cancers including breast and colorectal cancers. According to CDC statistics, heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death throughout our Place, mirroring national statistics. This is true in both our urban and rural areas. In Washington, DC, death rates due to heart disease are 17% above the national average. In Maryland’s rural counties, 15 to 20% of children were obese as of 2016, more than double the rate 20 years earlier, with adolescent obesity more than tripling in that period.

Research has identified food insecurity as a primary driver of these health outcomes. The prevalence of cancer increases with the severity of food insecurity. Additional annual health care expenditures of $1,863 on average for those living with food insecurity results in approximately $77.5B additional health care spending across the country every year. Nationwide, some 15 million households are food insecure, but that does not speak to the very uneven distribution of food insecurity in our society. In DC, the correlation between food insecurity and poor health outcomes has been graphically mapped. Food insecurity reflects the inherent inequities in our economic system which have been exacerbated by the growing wealth inequality in the country and our region.

Simple screening questions around running out of food have proven to be robust at identifying people facing food insecurity. When combined with the Food as Medicine movement, these assessments allow doctors to identify those at risk and address the root cause of the nutrition issues by increasing food access directly with health care dollars.

The biggest lever to empower people to reshape their Diets to achieve more healthful outcomes lies in reducing food insecurity. That can be funded by gradually reducing subsidies for the industrial food system and using those dollars to subsidize pay-what-you-can models to increase the access and affordability of Good Food. This, in turn, reduces health care costs throughout the system while leveling the playing field between industrial food and Good Food.

We are already seeing this implemented in our Place with several fruit and vegetable prescription programs. Through DC Greens Produce Rx program, doctors write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables. Among 120 participants over the course of a year, 50% decreased their body-mass index (BMI), while well-patient visits increased by 54%. Green Scheme, an organization that works in Washington D.C.’s food deserts to connect women and children with the environment through urban gardening projects in schools and community gardens. Other “food as medicine” initiatives could include greatly expanding the use of  SNAP and WIC to pay for Good Food, placing responsibility for MyPlate with NIH instead of USDA, and engaging health insurance companies in the legislative battle to accomplish these objectives. Affordable health care plays a central role in changing diets as well, and we will touch upon that in the Economics section.

In a rare alignment of human and planetary needs, moving toward plant-based diets benefits the health of both the planet and people. In addition, improving food access and security is inextricably linked to a system that is resilient from the impacts of climate change. On-the-ground programs can be interwoven with larger scale urban agriculture and food operations to create food centers in urban areas. The Good Food Net will amplify these efforts through knowledge and resource sharing that can inform local, state, and national decision making. Scaling these efforts means we can lower barriers to accessing nutritious food, while also driving the implementation of equitable food policies and practices connected to zoning, investment, and land use decisions.

By 2030 we envision degraded real estate, including abandoned shopping malls, being converted to urban and suburban agricultural centers and vertical farms that strengthen communities through the production, preparation, and sharing of food. By 2050, we envision food insecurity in our Place being reduced by 70%, and health care and healthy eating being intertwined. Basic health care, including wellness checks, would no longer occur in hospitals and doctor’s offices. Good Food Centers will have become health hubs where community nutritionists who understand the local food culture and traditions work with people to create tasty menus that improve health and specialty meal plans to address metabolic disorders. The Good Food Net would connect it all together–nutritionists and urban farmers, doctors and producers, the People with Good Food.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

Our food system has reliably delivered abundant, cheap, safe food for more than 70 years. That is no small thing – without it, we would be unable to feed our population which has more than doubled in that same period. But cheap food comes at a high price: Our food system is deeply rooted in exploitation and inequality. Indigenous people created this productive land through regenerative agricultural practices that exceed in scope anything we dream of today. Those peoples were all but destroyed by European colonists who planted slavery in the fertile soil. An agricultural system growing from such tainted roots cannot easily be reformed, and some combination of indentured and immigrant labor has been exploited in the creation of much of our food ever since. Food system exploitation goes beyond people–the beings that feed us and the planet we depend upon suffer so we can eat.

Through growth-oriented capitalism competing on economies of scale and focused on GDP we have ended up with a food system that is a model of efficiency – at taking irreplaceable natural resources and transforming them to waste in a one-way, linear flow with a relatively small amount of food as a byproduct. And now, the system vulnerabilities inherent in the consolidation of the food processing industry over the past several decades have been exposed. For the first time in most Americans’ lives, people are watching food that is needed by hungry Americans being destroyed on prime-time television.

In our “free” market, industrial food is subsidized in many ways, both transparent and not. Crop insurance, commodities trading, and government bulk purchases all reduce risk for large-scale food producers but do very little for specialty producers. Less obvious subsidies exist throughout the supply chain–tax breaks for large-scale food processing plants for bringing jobs to regions, SNAP payments to make up for less than living wages for workers throughout the food system, and the exploitation of immigrant labor at farms and meat packing plants all reduce the cost of industrial food to the end consumer. The largest subsidy of all may well be the health costs resulting from non-nutritive food borne by Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the private health care system. Good Food cannot compete on price when the playing field is so tilted toward industrial food.

As with the Environment and Diets, change is happening. Our Good Food Net incorporates many of the principles of the emerging conversation: human-centered capitalism, donut economics, and cradle-to-cradle processes. At heart, most of these new paradigms share a desire to move away from efficiency and toward abundance; away from maximizing GDP and toward maximizing the well-being of People and the planet; away from linear, destructive systems and toward circular, regenerative ones.

Our Good Food Web is built with economic security as a shared value at its core. Economic security means a living wage for everyone in the food system – enough to pay for living expenses including childcare but also to afford Good Food and access to health care. Breaking the pernicious cycle between SNAP and the industrial food system, as discussed in the Policy section. Lifting food-related workers to a living wage would fundamentally reshape underprivileged communities across our region. And since those who live with food insecurity and rely on food pantries are disproportionately female, this change would bring economic security to a large group of women. Decades of data from around the world demonstrate that economic security frees women to make their own reproductive decisions, which lowers the birth rate and eventually slows and then reverses population growth.

Our vision is of a less efficient, disaggregated, more human-intensive, cradle-to-cradle food supply network disbursed throughout the region across both urban and rural areas. Existing jobs in food production, processing, transportation, distribution, and food services would be augmented by new jobs creating labor-saving farming approaches for specialty crops, designing and building agricultural spaces and manufacturing the equipment necessary to realize them. Agriculture research would blossom as we explore regenerative techniques and breed or build new varieties of specialty crops. These careers will be more resistant to automation and artificial intelligence than diagnosing an illness, writing a legal brief, or balancing the books. Instead of choosing to become doctors, lawyers, or accountants, people will choose careers in building this new agricultural economy. Rather than giving everyone a universal basic income to close the gap between the median income and the real cost of living, we will build self-respect and pride with a living wage fairly earned through meaningful work that transforms communities. 

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Food is the yeast that binds culture together. Most cultures have some sort of a shared, celebratory meal: the Polynesian luau, Pacific Northwest potlatch, Chinese banquet, South African braai, Australian barbie, and Chilean asado... Many religious celebrations and national holidays also feature food: Eid al-Fitr, Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, Day of the Dead, Passover, Carnival, and Festival of Lights... While eating is the culmination of the celebration, gathering or buying food, preparing it, and cooking it are all important rituals that bind us together as we transition from the individual to the communal. We connect over food and over shared traditions, and in doing so, we find familiarity, comfort, and belonging. We build lasting, shared memories. We build community.

Even when it is not a holiday, a feast day, or a holy day, the rituals around preparing and eating food ground us and connect us to past meals, to our families and friends, and to the natural world. For some of our People, working two and three jobs, never earning quite enough money or having enough time, eating is an act of refueling, not a way of connecting. A bag of Fritos or a McDonalds burger gobbled down on the run barely provides nourishment and does nothing to fulfill the need to belong to something larger than yourself. It is not just the working poor who have become disconnected from food. Walk through any large office at lunchtime pre-pandemic, and you would see dozens of people scarfing down a sandwich in front of their computer screens.

Unlike “fast” food, fresh food requires preparation, which connects people to one another. Chef Antwon Brinson saw an opportunity to help disadvantaged youth when he was working in upscale restaurants and could not find qualified employees. He founded Culinary Concepts AB in Charlottesville to create positive change within the community through culinary arts. He provides support and guidance to the apprentices he trains through disciplines practiced in the kitchen every day. Along the way, he realized that the people in the African American community he served had lost food preparation skills. When they got fresh produce, they did not know what to do with it. He launched a series of courses to teach basic cooking skills, and in the process began to create a community around food; a community that reflected the culture of the people in it and was built with helping hands from within, not handouts from outsiders.

At the heart of the Good Food Net is shared values that empower people, and Chef Brinson provides a model for what that could look like with respect to Culture. When agriculture is within walking distance of every person in our Place, each community can define what role Good Food plays in building identity whether cultural, religious, or communal. We envision degraded real estate, such as distressed retail centers, converted to Good Food centers dotted around the urban and suburban landscape, with some mixture of model gardens, cooking classes, restaurants, health centers, composting areas, and communal spaces. We also envision urban gardens on school roofs, hydroponic greenhouses on the edges of green spaces, or rural agricultural incubation centers. No matter the form, these Good Food spaces would connect people back to the richness of their own food history while building community pride and identity.

The failed Louisville Food Port project, which included many of the ideas outlined above, illustrates the dangers of moving too far, too fast without community involvement and ownership. If food-related spaces do not arise organically from the community itself, as Culinary Concepts has done, they can be taken over by developers whose values and vision may not align with the community where the project is to live. 

These Good Food spaces would become part of the Good Food value chain infrastructure, the distributed network that offers multiple access points and multiple pathways for Good Food to find a productive home. The stakeholder network would support the activities within these facilities but also make use of them for Food as Medicine initiatives. The technology network would provide the collaborative platform for communities with projects like these to connect with people whose values align and who can assist with capital and policy.

Taken together, this distributed network of agricultural spaces would create a Food Culture for our Place. Distributed agriculture will allow people to grow what they want, cook what they want, and celebrate in ways that reflect their spiritual, cultural, and community heritage. In the process, consumers become producers, and abandoned shopping malls become centers for economic development and food justice. Each community will take a different approach and the richness of the experimentation will enliven our urban areas and revitalize our rural centers.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

Each actor in our Good Food Net connects to the rest of the net in up to three ways – the physical movement of food from one place to another, the relationships between individuals, and the technology platform. Technology touches everyone–without it, we cannot gain agreement on shared values, bake them into everything we do, or move forward in a coordinated fashion to realize transformational goals. Without technology, we can never hope to build economies of collaboration capable of challenging economies of scale.

We are piloting our vision real-time, years before we anticipated doing so, and without the technology at its heart. The Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition (MAFRAC) launched in April to bridge the gaping holes in our food supply chain. “What do you have? What do you need?” is the rallying cry for the one-hour Friday meetings attended by a couple dozen businesses, organizations, and individuals. One week, a poultry cooperative offers tens of thousands of pounds of frozen turkey in 40 lb. packages. The next, a plan is in place to transport them to a community kitchen, employ laid off restaurant workers to repackage them in 2 lb. portions and provide them over the next few weeks to food pantries. With technology, we could have gotten to this solution in a few minutes.

Many of the ideas in our vison have been swirling around for decades – Diet for a Small Planet was written a half a century ago. Those ideas have percolated in isolated pockets but never achieved regional scale. Now we have tools and technologies no one dreamed of in 1971. The technology platform that gets us to 2050 lies in pieces all around us, in technology we use every day, but it has not been integrated and focused on the challenges of scaling Good Food. By 2050 our tech platform would include but not be limited to:

Seamless ordering and fulfillment–think Amazon’s online store–that links every producer with every consumer, including those on SNAP, but offers radical transparency into food provenance

Enterprise management including logistics–think QuickBooks on steroids–with the ability to handle accounting, monitor logistics real time, and forecast production requirements

Local just-in-time logistics–think supply chain transport through an Uber/Lyft style app–where non-shelf stable products can be moved in hours from where it was picked to where it will be consumed

Pooling and scheduling of labor across the system–think Uber/Lyft from the driver’s perspective with a guaranteed living wage and health insurance–to allow those food workers to augment seasonal employment with shifts at popup events, food rescue efforts, and food festivals

Collaboration and project management–think Slack plus Asana–where a priority project, like building a new processing plant, can be posted, and partners can come forward offering capital, knowledge, community support, or lobbying assistance

Marketing Cloud–think Salesforce–capable of tracking and customizing the customer journey, recognizing customer preferences, and connecting customers to food-based events and agricultural spaces

Machine learning and artificial intelligence–think IBM’s Watson five generations from now–capable of tracking production planning by individual producers to match it to the region’s ten-year production needs while spotting opportunities for collaboration and bringing together potential partners

To be successful there can be no gap in Internet connectivity between rural and urban areas, and those working in the system must have affordable, portable health care–these would have to be early policy focuses.

To prevent centralization and the resulting concentration of power, we rely on decentralizing development but controlling it through shared protocols and standards. The technology platform would be security-centered with requirements to use enterprise-level, industry standard security and privacy protocols; open-source so the basic coding standards are available to all to refine and build upon; API-enabled so that any actor in the Net could develop and plug into the existing platform within the security requirements; and data-sharing so that data defined as being public is equally available to all.

“What do you have/what do you need?” is the basic question the Good Food Net technology platform will ask and answer real time. It links every actor within our network of networks to every other actor. It replaces the randomness of human connections with equal access to infrastructure, knowledge, policy, and capital. The technology network binds everything together–the value chain, the support network, the knowledge network, the capital network, and the policy network–and weaves them into the Good Food Net to create a resilient, flexible, adaptable food safety net around our region.

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

We can list all of the policy changes we want, but we will not succeed in realizing any if we don’t identify the financial levers that could fund them, and strong partners whose interests align closely enough with ours that we can work together on specific issues. The current crisis has laid bare many vulnerabilities in our society, creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change.

In the Diets theme, we discussed initiatives already well advanced to shift healthcare dollars to fund “Food as Medicine” and where those might take us. Breaking the pernicious cycle between SNAP and the industrial food system offers another opportunity. In Washington state, the three employers with the largest number of employees using SNAP benefits were Walmart, McDonald’s, and Safeway. One-third of Amazon employees in Arizona need SNAP to feed themselves. Last year, Americans redeemed about $61 billion in SNAP benefits, and more than half of that total was spent at big-box stores. These companies do not pay a living wage, forcing their employees to use government assistance, and many of them directly benefit from that taxpayer spending.

Though not as well quantified, the health care costs of these employees are similarly shifted to taxpayers through coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and to the health care system overall for emergency room visits by uninsured adults. Senator Sanders introduced a bill in 2018 to tax employers for the government benefits their employees were using. While the legislation has stalled, Amazon’s announcement that it was increasing its minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour suggests the company was paying attention. We could help move this agenda forward in our region by focusing in on SNAP and forming alliances with insurance companies.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has a vested interest in the physical fitness of our citizens, creating another powerful ally. 27% of Americans between 17 and 24 are too overweight to qualify for military service, and of those who qualified 47% of males and 59% of females failed the Army’s entry-level physical fitness test. The DoD is already having trouble maintaining troupe strength and readiness, but if this continues their core mission of protecting the security of the country will be compromised. 57% of today’s children will be obese by the time they are 35. The DoD would have a strong self-interest in funding healthy-eating education programs and school-based agricultural centers to combat that trend.

The DoD has another vested interest that aligns with our Vision–national food security. Our country must be able to feed itself in case of another world war or global disaster, and this pandemic has made clear the dangers of relying on a highly concentrated supply chain for essential foods. Our Good Food Net would create a distributed system of food production and processing with multiple pathways to market. The DoD could be a powerful ally in the national conversation around restructuring our food system. That should help shift national and state priorities from giving tax breaks and assistance to large, centralized processing facilities, and instead using some of those resources to fill the gaps in regional supply chains. An infrastructure assessment and gap analysis are the next steps in creating our Good Food Net. Other food security-related policy changes would include shifting the focus of the Virginia Department of Agriculture from export to use-at-home, creating incentives to protect agricultural land from development, and removing barriers around various forms of urban agriculture.

The top policy priorities for the Good Food Net will come out of a collaborative process with our partners and stakeholders. But during the visioning sessions, redefining how we measure economic success from GDP to economic security and overall health became a guiding theme. Three initiatives will likely head the policy list: shifting subsidies from industrial food to Good Food as outlined above, making access to high-speed Internet a universal basic right, and moving from work-based health insurance to portable health care for everyone.

To improve health outcomes and economic security for the People in our Place, we must flip the current system on its head. Rather than the low wage/cheap, non-nutritive food tradeoff that is the conclusion of 70 years of increasingly industrial agriculture, we envision a living wage/Good Food world. We believe the total cost of our approach, factoring in health care and government benefits on both sides, would be lower than the current system. Even if it were not, as one of the richest countries in the world, we should be able to afford a more just, equitable society where everyone has access to good healthy food, the environment is healing, and all beings are treated with dignity and respect.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

Just as the six Themes have played interconnected roles to get us to the often unjust, unsustainable, and unhealthful food system of 2020, their connections will prove pivotal in reversing negative trends, amplifying positive ones, and creating the Good Food Net we envision for 2050.

Agricultural policy (subsidies, insurance, commodity purchases) makes Good Food unaffordable and non-nutritive, while high fructose corn syrup-laden processed food is cheap, plentiful, and the norm in most cultures. In our future food system, agricultural policy incentivizes diversified, regenerative agriculture, thereby increasing the availability of Good Food. Coupled with increased supply, the robust infrastructure, relationships, and technology of the Good Food Net will bring economies of collaboration to bear, leading to greater efficiencies and lower costs for Good Food.

Until agricultural policies and market forces align behind Good Food, policy that levels the playing field between industrial food and Good Food will also be necessary. For many of those working in the food system and other non-living-wage jobs, lack of economic security often means lack of health insurance and diminished ability to make healthy choices. On the other hand, those earning a truly living wage—as will be the case in our future food system, thanks to policy and economic shifts that increase the supply and accessibility of Good Food and remove the subsidies propping up industrial food—have the means and time to make healthy, informed choices.

In addition to enabling transactions, technology will enable a culture of transparency and informed decision-making, which is pivotal to realizing the values at the heart of the Good Food Net. It will empower farmers to share all of the many layers of value that they put into their food while giving everyone equitable insight into the provenance and production of their food.

Equity will be a deeply embedded cornerstone of the 2050 food system. To get there, equity will need to be enshrined in policy, supported through technology, and manifested in economic justice. Culture will have a significant role to play here, as privileged groups increasingly acknowledge and relinquish their privilege.

Similarly, culture will play a large role in normalizing shifts toward Good Food diets that align with human and planetary health. Health outcomes will improve, and expectations around quality of life will be higher. Healthcare and insurance providers will throw their considerable weight into redesigning healthcare policy to support food as medicine and Good Food more broadly. As policymakers create ways to access more land for regenerative agricultural production, the environment and those who interact with it will reap the benefits, making polluted rivers and eroding farmland unacceptable, further enshrining the environmental and land use policies that create healthy ecosystems into law.

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a real-time test case of value trade-offs in our food system. On the one hand, people in need must be fed. On the other hand, producers must find homes for their food, and ideally homes that can pay, so that farmers and food businesses remain viable throughout and beyond this crisis. Participants in the system must make those trade-offs for themselves, but the consensus has been that while both goals are priorities, feeding people must come first, even if that food comes from the industrial, global supply chain. However, when there are opportunities to plug regional Good Food producers into the food assistance pipeline, with some financial help from willing participants, both priorities can be met simultaneously.

Similar tradeoffs will have to be made over the next thirty years to achieve our 2050 Vision. Within the first three years, a series of working sessions with partners and stakeholders will bring people together to not only agree on values, but also determine their prioritization and where and when tradeoffs are acceptable. The system cannot be dogmatic or rigid, especially in the early phases. To borrow a phrase from social work, we must “meet people where they are,” whether in reference to technology, diets, economics, or any of the themes that shape the system. In order to evolve from the system we have now to the system we envision, we will need to work with the players and levers that currently exist, all the while keeping our values at the center and being intentional about trade-offs.

For example, as we engage farmers and producers to participate in the Net, some will not share all of our Good Food values from the start, or their practices may not fully align with their values due to implementation barriers of time, money, culture, and knowledge. Similarly, many potential partnering institutions or customers, especially large ones (imagine hospital systems or the Department of Defense), will not share all our Good Food values. In either case, keeping out those who are not fully aligned will all but guarantee that values and practices do not come further into alignment.

The Good Food Net will have shared values and will be vocal about them, but it will not exclude those who do not share all of them, so long as they are not actively opposed to any of them. It will favor inclusion over exclusivity, transparency over simplicity, and informed choice over predetermination. When tradeoffs need to be made, it will provide people with the information they need to choose for themselves.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

The physical infrastructure of the food supply chain in our region and the many organizations that support it form the nexus of our Good Food Net. To achieve our Vision in 2050, we must integrate these more tightly together and create ways to communicate, connect, and collaborate. To be successful, by 2024 this group needs to come to consensus on:

Values alignment. We cannot move forward without building consensus around the values at the heart of our Good Food Net and how they translate into actions in the real world. That process will involve multiple workshops with our partners and stakeholders. Our Vision will evolve, but we believe the core elements are robust.

What do we have?/What do we need? We must answer these questions to build the core of the Good Food Net–the supply chain, support network, and technology infrastructure. That means mapping the existing regional supply chain; surveying the focus, skills, capabilities, and interests of the support network; and completing a technology needs assessment and survey of existing software solutions. This will uncover gaps that must be filled–we are already aware of the need for regional poultry and livestock processing, the lack of immigrant representation in our support network, and the lack of standards for software development.

Technology standards. Guardrails for system development must be established if an open-source, distributed technology platform is going to succeed. That starts with enterprise-level industry security standards and includes programming protocols and API definitions and requirements, as well as specifications for Blockchain technology.

Laying these strands with our partners and stakeholders will help us determine the three or four key goals that will get us where we need to be by 2030. This will provide the framework for each organization to find ways to further those goals within the context of their mission as we begin the process of weaving together our Good Food Net.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

To be on track for 2050, the amount of Good Food flowing though our supply chain by 2030 must be increasing exponentially. For that to happen, the demand for fruits and vegetables must be growing as the regional supply chain scales to meet it. One demand driver will be the integration of Food as Medicine models into the healthcare system. At the heart of that initiative will be shifting health dollars to pay for fresh food for those who could not otherwise afford it. Good Food will have to compete with industrial food for this increase in demand, so the opportunity it represents for our regional food system could be lost if the regional supply chain does not scale to meet it.

A second demand driver will arise out of responses to the supply chain failures during the pandemic. Moving from export-focused to use-at-home agriculture, and from concentrated supply chains to distributed ones, will shift demand for fresh food from the industrial to regional food systems. To be successful, these policy realignments must be accompanied by reallocating food subsidy dollars to give regional producers the financial support they need to increase production.

No matter how robustly Good Food supply is growing by 2030, if we are still reliant on one-on-one connections between organizations and individuals to coordinate our efforts, we are bound to fail. By 2030, the technology network that binds together the Good Food Net must be coming to fruition. At the very least, core ordering/fulfillment/supply chain management system must be in place and communication and project management tools to link coalitions must be augmenting ad hoc collaboration to coordinate responses.

If regional Good Food production is firmly established on a solid growth trajectory and the Good Food Net is working in a coordinated fashion on several key goals, we will be well on our way to achieving our Vision by 2050.

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

$200,000 spread across all the partners and stakeholders we have engaged in the process of creating and refining this Vision would not create much impact at each organization or within the larger system. $200,000 invested in the steps necessary to get us to where we need to be in 2024 would. If awarded the $200,000 prize, we would divide the money roughly in thirds and put it toward those goals: facilitated engagements with our partners to come to consensus on our shared values, an assessment of supply chain infrastructure and partner capabilities to identify gaps, and the creation of systems standards to lay the foundation for the tech net.

The third of the prize dollars for facilitation and engagement would fund the time and effort of skilled facilitators to create workplans, guide discussions, distill values and priorities, maintain strong communications, and help build relationships that would get us well on our way to reaching our three-year milestones. This portion of funding would also be used to enable a broad and diverse group of current and new partners/stakeholders to participate, through time/travel stipends, childcare, interpretation, etc.

Based on previous work, we already have a good sense of what technology exists and the strengths and limitations of various platforms. We would look to the values and priorities that emerge in our facilitated  working sessions with our partners and stakeholders to help prioritize what functionality would be developed first, and to engage with a tech partner in setting up an Agile team to begin the development process.

We will remain flexible and readjust based on the many projects going on in our region, some in response to the pandemic. Some of our stakeholders are addressing the supply chain infrastructure specifically, so that assessment may find funding elsewhere. The prize money would be invested in the future, with the expectation of a high return.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and this Vision process have reshaped our conception of the food system. “Food system” tends to conjure up a certain cast of characters: farmers, food hubs, chefs, food pantries, and the like. But so many others, from neighborhood mutual aid groups to ad hoc church food pantries to culinary arts teachers, have a role and should have a voice in the food system.

We envision a food system in which all voices can be heard so that the structure, function, and outputs of the system are not solely determined by ingrained, inequitable, unsustainable networks of power. Good Food will be a right, not a privilege. Anyone who wants to grow, cook, eat, make, or engage in any way with Good Food will be able to do so, with access to the full wealth of knowledge, relationships, and infrastructure of the Good Food Net.

A food supply chain is liable to rigidity, breakage, and exclusion. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A net is a series of chains—redundant, strong, and distributed. When a waterman casts his net, a link may break, but the net still serves its purpose, and the harvest of fish can be shared with his community. 4P Foods cannot build this net on our own, and the Mid-Atlantic Net cannot do its work alone. Shifting economies to just modes of production, agriculture to regenerative practices, and cultures and diets to health- and community wealth-creating approaches will not happen in isolation. The more connections, the stronger the Net.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

The Good Food Net consists of the physical network of assets that bring Good Food to markets, the community of interdependent actors that support that system, and networks of policymaking, capital, and knowledge that nurture it. A user-friendly, seamless technology platform enables this Net, creating economies of collaboration that can challenge economies of scale. Through this network of networks, we will be able to build a Good Food safety net so food can always find a way to reach bellies.

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Attachments (4)

4P Foods Mid-Atlantic Good Food Net Visualization_FULL.pdf

Full Visual (couldn't upload PDF, so just included one piece as JPEG in Visual section)

4P Foods FSVP Partner and Stakeholder Engagement.xlsx

Spreadsheet describing partners, stakeholders, and how they were engaged


Mid-Atlantic Food Port Feasibility Study Report


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hey Natalie Vandenburgh  we're about to reach the Refinement phase submission deadline in less than an hour. Make sure you've update all your application question responses in the submission. Also ensure your submission is "Published". Feel free to tag me in here or email us at incase you face any technical issues with the submission.

Wish you all the best

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hey Natalie Vandenburgh  we're about to reach the Refinement phase submission deadline in less than an hour. Make sure you've update all your application question responses in the submission. Also ensure your submission is "Published". Feel free to tag me in here or email us at incase you face any technical issues with the submission.

Wish you all the best

Photo of Natalie Vandenburgh

Thank you Karla Cook  Ethos Farm Project for reaching out with that great synthesis of the many amazing visions centering on the Mid-Atlantic! During these challenging times, we are heartened and inspired by the pre-crisis visions you and others submitted, and by all of the amazing work being done in the food and agriculture spaces now in the midst of the crisis. For us, the past ten weeks have been spent doubling down on the implementation of our vision of an unbreakable Good Food supply chain capable of feeding the entire region equitably and sustainably, as we have spent countless hours with our partners, food assistance providers, and other Good Food actors to be sure that farmers keep farming, food businesses stay afloat, and people stay employed and fed. Exploring how all of these Mid-Atlantic Visions could fit together would be an amazing opportunity for collaboration if we had a few months or at least a few non-crisis weeks to do so. But with time and bandwidth as it is, we wish you all the best with your Vision, both within the context of this prize and outside of it!

Photo of Jason  Clay

Really interesting! As someone who lives in the mid-Atlantic (NJ, near Philadelphia) I'd love to see this come to fruition. As we see increased demand for food from local farms in the face of Covid19, but also lack of access to some markets and difficulties with sourcing labor, what does this mean for your vision?

Photo of Karla Cook

Last because good soil and good water produce Good Food, but not least because crazy delicious food is the only way to change people’s minds and thus their diets, we see Stone Barns Center, which uses flavor as THE entry point, as connection between farmers, chefs, teachers and eaters and leaders. Co-collaborator Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and his team have years logged in the fields and in the pastures and in the kitchens and across the food chain, modeling for all of us an ecological, diverse and nimble food culture. A current example, cited by Tom Colicchio, in conversation with Helen Rosner:
"Dan Barber is doing something pretty neat up at Stone Barns. He’s trying to keep the supply chain intact, so he’s still using all of his farmers that he uses, his fishermen, all that, and he’s creating these takeout boxes….he’s just using whatever his farmers have. He’s realized that he’s no longer a chef—he’s a food processor."
Barber and company bring to bear the deep-pocketed resources necessary for conducting research and their existing abilities for data collection, communication, storytelling and education of all changemakers to nimbly lead in democratizing Good Food. One success story the writers cite is that of kale – the once unknown dark leafy green made into a must-have by 2013 by the plotting in 2005 of Jack Algiere, farm director, and Barber. Part of their plan: a complete re-thinking of the campus to exemplify a networked food culture and economy, with living exhibitions, classrooms and research center.
(Already connected to, among others: MASS Design)

IPCC and previous reports here:

Rights of Nature model

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Project Drawdown

WRI: Toward a Sustainable Food Future

The Lancet: Diet for Planetary Health

Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home

Photo of Karla Cook

But not everyone will have the sunlight/water/inclination to grow fruit trees, herbs and vegetables right up to their front door, and in short order, the growing communities will have surplus to share and will need a nimble network. In today’s fragile, just-in-time food chain, right now, we see distribution problems writ large with photos of farmers dumping milk and plowing under crops, juxtaposed against ever-growing lines at food banks. And we read of covid-shuttered restaurants – themselves engines of urban and suburban vitality and critical sources of revenues for local budgets – hoping to retain and grow connections to farmers and to diners. Enter Good Food Mid-Atlantic Food Port, with its ever-growing transparent, distributed network online that connects growers to producers to retailers to school cafeterias to hospitals to truckers to food waste haulers to eaters – and everyone in between, that again, helps to build the circular economy of the mid-Atlantic. This vision underwent a feasibility study in 2018. Long-term, it predicts expansion of produce prescription programs through Medicaid/Medicare.
(Already connected to, among others: D.C. Central Kitchen, Living Pastures Farm, YMCA)

And about Good Food vs the corn-soy diet that’s calibrated with salt-sugar-fat for transient bliss but is killing planet and people: We all understand that changing diets first requires changing minds. If we are working pre-K through medical school to teach the pleasure of plants and the principles and power of Good Food in support of planetary boundaries, we will have reached a bottom-up audience (think seat belts and anti-smoking campaigns with children educating parents). The Faith Institutions Leading the Way stewardship initiative, and its powerful beginning framework of reflection on food and ecology is another avenue for changing minds along three broad avenues:
• for connecting to the Indigenous ethic and to permaculture and fertile soil and clean water with a shift of faith communities to growing food;
• for growing the community of the table; and crucially,
• developing and supporting state legislation for regenerative/circular food/agriculture/community practices.
(Already connected to, among others: Black Church Food Security Network, Healthcare Without Harm, Bronx Eats, Virginia Foodshed Capital)

And that brings up Food Connects 2050, with Washington, D.C., visions for an ecologically-based circular food chain – production, preparation, distribution and reclamation of food waste and water – all of which connect neighbors to each other via zucchini over the garden gate, the community of the table, health assessment, nutrition counseling, green employment and gratitude for what they grow and eat. At use are community-based greenhouses, incubator kitchens and canning sheds. Equally profound is the connection to lawmakers in the halls of Congress who could effect change in laws of the land – whether the subsidies program in support of Good Food/Good Earth; the creation of a cabinet-level Good Food department, minus influence of Big Ag, Big Meat, Big Sugar and Big Beverage; or the strengthening of anti-pollution measures for this beloved land.
(Already connected to, among others: University of the District of Columbia, DC Central Kitchen, DC Urban Greens, DC Housing, DC Health, Green Cities program, Wageningen University of the Netherlands)

Photo of Karla Cook

Ethos Farm Project – Here in the Garden State, the belly of the mid-Atlantic food shed that stretches from Virginia through New York state, we take pride in knowing and growing produce. We envision our group as coordinating hub for a new version of the American Dream, one that uses small-scale, lawn-to-food regenerative farming credits and property tax relief to enable affordable exurban, suburban and urban housing. This small-scale agriculture, which will nourish New Jersey urbanites, all pre-K-12 students and those in our mid-Atlantic food shed, is a complement to larger, conventionally run farms that grow mostly legume and grain calories. The new American Dream is buttressed by expansion of existing food systems literacy efforts rooted in five-senses pleasure: palate education, cooking lessons, resultant shared meals, and chef-and-physician-informed Good Food nutrition/physiology education for students of all ages, from pre-K through medical school and in the larger community that includes faith-based stewardship. All would be supported by regeneratively-centered REITS and other investments; for example, funds now devoted to chronic disease care – 75 cents of every health care dollar – would be repurposed to, as Hippocrates directed, “let food be thy medicine” aka plant-based Good Food.
(Already connected to, among others: Walter Willett MD, Harvard School of Public Health; Andrew Chignell, Princeton University; Anu Ramaswami, Princeton University and Sustainable Cities; Princeton Studies Food; Gal Hochman, Rutgers; Daniel Giménez, Rutgers soil science; Saul Bautista, MD, NJMS Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group and Rutgers Medical School; PlantPure Communities; John Bianucci, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT; Joan Werner, New York Life Investment Management; Princeton School Gardens Cooperative; NJ Audubon; Rodale Institute.)

This work goes hand-in-glove with and is informed by Sylvanaqua, with its 12,000-year-old Indigenous ethic, which embraces nature as prerequisite for all life, and works within it to reclaim institutional, preserved and marginal lands for permaculture, and reclaims workers via distributed ownership and lifelong care of those tending the land. Seed-to-market vertical integration, too, is part of this plan; in this iteration, it is a regenerative, respectful approach that keeps the resources re-circulating and nurturing the community, simultaneously easing the wage scarcity so common to the food/ag sector.
(Possible connections: lawmakers at local, state and federal levels)

Photo of Karla Cook

Good Food Transformation, mid-Atlantic & beyond

We know the story: Diet-related disease is at epidemic scale, increasing risks of complications and death from the novel coronavirus. Our earth is running a fever, with industrial agriculture and its monstrous scale responsible for greenhouse gas emissions roughly equal to energy production, and its habitat-encroaching practices, among others, implicated in the pandemic itself. Inequality, even before covid-19, was rampant. Our society has been brought low by vicious polarization, acute loneliness, the opioid epidemic, alcohol abuse and deaths of despair.

We know, though, that plant-based Good Food can help heal, in all its myriad roles. We know that access, affordability and availability of these foods are matters of justice. That the deliciousness of those foods can surpass the carefully calibrated salt-sugar-fat “bliss point” of highly processed, packaged items to which we are physiologically vulnerable. That plant-based foods above all else connect us to our own bodies, to each other, to our communities and to the natural systems that are prerequisites to all life.

We began reading submissions of the refinement phase of the 2050 Food System Vision Prize within our framework of reference documents* – the Rights of Nature model, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Project Drawdown, Toward a Sustainable Food Future from the World Resource Institute, the Lancet’s Diet for Planetary Health, and Laudato Si. And we kept in mind that transformation, and playing the long game, happens when we meet people where they are.

First, we saw and appreciated the systems in each vision. Then, lightning: This is our moment to connect existing systems to envisioned complex and dynamic systems, and to use collective strength of applicants to bridge gaps for the good of humanity.

With eyes wide open, we see profound potential in collaborating and co-creating with, at minimum, five other visionaries, together building a solid Good Food framework that elevates, distributes and celebrates regional plant-based foods – those grown in the mid-Atlantic. Along the way we would create a nimble and malleable template and/or expand to include others elsewhere.

Within the six visions, we see endless connections and redundancies that strengthen and stabilize this emerging system of systems. We see each of these visions as hub and spokes, taking the turnabout lead-and-follow on one or more programs as we co-create, rearrange, nudge and strengthen across culture, environment, human health, economics, technology, economics and policy.

What do you think?

Photo of Itika Gupta

Reading through the Refinement Visions, I came across other Visionary teams from various parts of the United States. Incase you havn't already, connecting you all Mary McArthur Matthew Wilson Natalie Vandenburgh Stone Barns Center Christopher Newman Elizabeth Reaves Sprouting Farms  so you can provide some feedback on one another’s Vision submissions from the context of your region's most pressing challenges in the present and future. Happy connecting!

Photo of Matthew Wilson

Thanks for the connection, Itika Gupta !

Natalie Vandenburgh loved your definition of Good Food, and overall, the 4P Foods Vision for a Mid-Atlantic food port was inspiring to read. The struggle to scale Good Food and make it accessible to all is one we are also facing here on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. While some of the barriers you face in the Mid-Atlantic are different from those in the Midwest (the struggle to secure land, for one, as we have an abundance of prairie land that Tribal members can access in varying ways), we also deal with some similar challenges. The majority of our agricultural crop production is also geared towards commodities like corn and soy, which has inhibited the development of a regional supply chain that can fully connect producers to consumers. To your point about the need to develop a decentralized but interconnected food system with a variety of paths to market, this is something we are also working to build within our communities. It’s great this to see similar thoughts and vision for our local food systems in other parts of the country - looking forward to the day when we all are nourished by regional and local foods. Excited to read the next phase of your Vision!

Photo of Mat Jones

Hi Natalie,
I really liked the model of a distributed system for your vision. Also the importance of food system transparency
" 2050, transparency that now seems radical will be the norm. All food has a story behind it, but now that story will be knowable by anyone who buys or eats it. From how and where it was grown and by whom to when it was harvested and where it has been since then, data that is now inaccessible will be available, allowing for true values-based purchasing."
It would be interesting to know how that data becomes accessible to consumers in a manner that can be leveraged at the point of purchasing.
Best wishes

Photo of Natalie Vandenburgh

Hi Itika Gupta ! Thank you, and we are so excited to dive into the Refinement Phase. We will let you know if questions arise.

Photo of Itika Gupta

Dear Natalie Vandenburgh  , Congratulations on being shortlisted as a Semi-Finalist. Welcome to Refinement!

Through refinement, we'd like to see the details in the broad strokes of the Vision you painted for your region.
How might you bring your Vision into sharper focus through:
1. Building partnerships and forming a systemic and multi-disciplinary Vision Team
2. Visualising your future food system to help people see and feel the future of their food system
3. Assessing the feasibility of your future food system to better anticipate its needs and challenges

We invite you to take full advantage of the open platform here – to tag in team members into your Vision, connect with other Refinement teams, and solicit feedback from participants around the world.

It’s great to continue with you into this next phase. Consider me your support for questions you might have while on this platform.

Looking forward to seeing a detailed and Refined Vision for your region in the coming weeks.