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Oberlin Food Hub Fridge

By: Sophia Cartsonis

In 2020, the Green Edge Fund had the great pleasure of working with the Oberlin Food Hub in funding a new, expanded cooler. The Oberlin Food Hub is a vital part of the Oberlin community, as they provide local food that “bridges the gap between small and medium sized farms and wholesalers.” They also participate in projects such as a farm-to-school program, which provides fresh and local produce to the Oberlin public schools. Prior to this addition, produce had to be painstakingly loaded by hand, greatly reducing efficiency and capacity. After two weeks of construction, over 40 palettes of produce, about 20-30 lbs each, can be easily loaded into the new cooler.

In addition to the increase in efficiency, the Green EDGE Fund is especially excited to support this project because of the link between local produce and a household’s carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint represents the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product. Food accounts for approximately 10-30% of a household's net carbon footprint, with 5% of the carbon footprint resulting from transportation. This may not seem like a large number, but this is roughly equivalent to a household driving 1,000 miles less per year, which would allow you to cross roughly the width of the United States. According to Dave Sokoll, director of the Oberlin Food Hub, the addition of this new cooler has allowed the Hub to “cross-dock”, meaning that no intermediary storage or transportation is needed between the producer and consumer, thus further reducing travel and overhead costs for storage. This in turn reduces the carbon footprint within our town of Oberlin.

By supporting local produce, we can mitigate our carbon footprint, while simultaneously stimulating local economies. Roughly 52% of revenues spent in the local economy returns to communities, as opposed to 14% when national chain retailers are utilized., When money returns to the local government and economy, it can be utilized for projects specifically tailored to a community's needs.

When we support buying from local farms, we prevent the occurence of food waste. In the Great Depression, starving farmers were encouraged to burn their crops to create scarcity, thus increasing prices of crops. Today, food waste in the United States accounts for a staggering 30-40% of all crops grown, which in turn accounts for 8% of the world's carbon footprint. This waste was increased during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as supply chains were disrupted and farmers were unable to transport produce. By buying at local community owned stores, profit margins are tighter and the needs of the community are better known, thus decreasing waste. Farmers, who would have otherwise destroyed crops they were unable to sell, now have more market options. As price takers, small family-owned farms today are often at risk in the face of larger farms’ market domination as a result of vertical integration. The new cooler capacity at the Oberlin Food Hub now allows for greater partnership between farmers and other food Hubs, thus increasing efficiency and decreasing waste by providing an alternative to simply clearing the space for new produce.

Reducing our carbon footprint by supporting sustainable food consumption is an essential part of the Green EDGE Fund and we are so excited we had the chance to work on this project. Please don’t hesitate to apply for funding if you have any ideas of you own and if you're not ready to do a project but have an idea, submit your ideas in our Idea Box!

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