The Oneida Nation is a federally recognized tribe of Oneida people, with a reservation located on 65,000 acres near Green Bay, Wisconsin. The tribe works to offer programs, services, and resources that enable the community to carry on with the strength and determination of its ancestors. The Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems group works on improving the quality of food, education about food-related health risks, employment and youth opportunities, and bringing people together around food. OCIFS developed an integrated model for restoring their local food system to generate wealth and health in the community and increase interest in traditional Oneida foods.
Food Center Feasibility Study and Design Development
After years of development in the local food system, the Oneida Nation was still grappling with two fundamental questions. How sovereign are we if we can’t feed ourselves? How healthy are we if we are plagued with diabetes? This led to a refreshed focus and set of strategies to build a healthy community through an integrated system that engages the tribe in developing a healthful mindset, increasing production of local and traditional foods, building up the economy through local food production, making traditional foods more available where the community meets and shops, and ensuring this all is accomplished in a sustainable way. This integrated system found its embodiment in a concept for a Community Food Center that will be the first of its kind for a sovereign nation.
Partnering with New Venture Advisors
To help Oneida shape and validate their concept, New Venture Advisors (NVA) identified gaps and needs in the local food system that could be satisfied by a Food Center located in central Oneida. Through various engagement methods, NVA gathered input from the Oneida community, the greater Green Bay community, and food system stakeholders from across the region to identify the space and services that did so. The components that were identified will combine into a 14,000 square foot facility with the following features, designed to be a place that will celebrate the Oneida Nation’s culture and traditions while simultaneously increasing the availability of foods that are important in their local food system.
- Eatery Fast-casual style eatery with dedicated and shared seating and dedicated kitchen
- Retail Shops / Kiosks 3 arcade-style shops plus mobile kiosks in community space merchandising products made by kitchen entrepreneurs
- Cannery Larger, updated production kitchen for producing traditional Oneida products
- Commercial Kitchen Shared kitchen with capacity for 3 simultaneous users
- Storage Dry, cold, and frozen storage facilities for the eatery and cannery, and with rentable, secured storage cages for kitchen users
- Community / Event Space Public, two-level gathering space with tables and chairs for eatery and available for event rentals. Option for demonstration kitchen setup.
- Conference Room Multi-use dividable conference room for classes, events, and meetings with adjacent buffet line
- Other Offices, loading area, maintenance/electric room, toilets, locker rooms, scullery
Programming overlays will include nutrition education and cooking classes, free kitchen access for Oneida members to make traditional foods, a workforce development program to train eatery staff, cultural and community-building events hosted in the event space, and food business incubation services for commercial kitchen users operated in collaboration with nearby colleges.
New Venture Advisors proposed a Food Center model that would serve as a place for the Oneida community as well as the broader Green Bay community to gather, eat, work, and learn. By having the location within a Tribal Nation, the Food Center will create a link for healthy food initiatives and a pipeline for related regional jobs. It will not only benefit Oneida tribal members, but also fresh food producers, entrepreneurs, and jobseekers in the food service industry.
New Venture Advisors’ findings support the premise that an Oneida Food Center will be a valuable and desired facility in the Oneida community with the potential to deepen engagement with broader Green Bay as programming develops. It is projected to break even on an operating basis within 4-5 years.
Using the market, operating and financial models and conceptual plans developed by the NVA team, Oneida is currently socializing the food center with community members and tribal leaders and working with a local college to complete the business plan.
Fortunately, Oneida already has an established community-based planning process to garner local input and establish transparency and open communication. This process is likely to result in changes to these plans, but that is a hallmark of successful community-based planning and more likely to result in a successful food center.
[Main image courtesy of Oneida Nation] [Image of Oneida Food Innovation Center Conceptual Plan by New Venture Advisors]