Food Systems Assessment
Food Systems Assessments (FSAs), sometimes referred to as Community Food Assessments (CFAs), evaluate the local food value chain, from inputs to agricultural production, distribution, processing, wholesale purchasing, consumption, waste management and the myriad of strategies and services that support the supply chain – such as marketing and branding, technical assistance and funding.
While many of our projects are focused on evaluating the viability of a specific enterprise idea or strategy, FSAs are conducted in the early stage of food systems planning and typically have no specific vision or strategy in mind. They help stakeholders fully understand the landscape, identify gaps and challenges across the value chain, and surface a variety of strategies to consider – ranging from new businesses to policy changes.
Our FSA projects often include two primary phases:
- Community organization: Great change can begin with a few individuals at work in their communities to plan and galvanize support for food systems development. We assist at this earliest stage by helping to form effective coalitions, conduct outreach to the broader community, build strategies and action plans for economic development and approach granting agencies for funding.
- Opportunity identification: Through an initial environmental assessment, which includes meetings with all stakeholders and potential project partners and secondary research, we begin to understand barriers and opportunities in the food system and determine potential strategies to address them. These strategies may shape the focus of a Feasibility Study which often follows an FSA when specific enterprise or programmatic solutions are identified.
New Venture Advisors works with clients to customize our FSAs by developing research instruments that align with your unique regional context. Our approach is to put forth insights, but more importantly, to recommend a concrete action plan of next steps.
Food Systems Assessment Projects
Learn how we have helped our clients with Food System Assessments below.
Linn County Food System Assessment
Cedar Rapids, IA
In 2020, The Linn County Food Systems Council had ambitious goals to improve Linn County’s food system from production to consumption. They focused on increasing access to and consumption of nutritious foods by boosting the volume and diversity of food produced within the county. The first step toward accomplishing this goal was to complete a comprehensive baseline food system assessment. New Venture Advisors worked with the Council to assess four factors that are foundational to food system development: production, procurement, processing, and barriers to entry and expansion of businesses working within the food system. (2020) Read the report here.
Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Enterprise Center Feasibility Study
The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission wants to support business diversification and growth in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia through value-added products and the delivery of agricultural goods and products to new markets. An Agricultural Enterprise Center has the potential to significantly accelerate this growth. This multi-use facility is intended to help growers and producers expand their market area, bridge the market gap, and pool together products to meet market demands. New Venture Advisors is completing a food system assessment and feasibility study to determine the size, scale and location of the Ag Enterprise Center, the components to be included, and the economic benefits for the region. (2021)
Food System Planning for the Waukegan Food Ecosphere
The Adelante Center for Entrepreneurship exists to create wealth in communities with economic challenges through entrepreneurship, community development, and living wage job creation. A cluster of food initiatives has been identified to be among the first projects undertaken at Adelante: a food hall, a kitchen incubator, and an urban farm with a fresh market and café. Pre-development work for this ambitious set of projects is underway. New Venture Advisors is conducting a market study of the Waukegan trading area to provide a broad picture of the community’s composition and needs within the food system. (2021)
City of Wichita Food System Master Plan
The Health and Wellness Coalition of Wichita’s Food Policy Committee is developing, connecting and building a local food environment that creates a sustainable food system to serve the needs of producers, suppliers and consumers. The Coalition is composed of numerous organizations including the Greater Wichita YMCA which serves as fiduciary for the Coalition. By partnering with the City of Wichita to create a 10-year Food System Master Plan, they are guiding the development of community food assets in Wichita, Kansas. A Food System Master Plan process is an opportunity to provide a comprehensive approach to food systems efforts – identifying policy solutions that influence how food is produced, processed, distributed, stored, transported, purchased and consumed. New Venture Advisors will oversee the development of this plan. (2021)
Northeast Market Assessment for Vermont Grain
Northern Grain Growers Association, UVM Extension, Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund/Farm to Plate are wisely exploring agricultural options for Vermont dairy producers whose farming operations are facing an economic crisis that threatens the loss of their land and livelihoods. This group of collaborators is developing a hypothesis that investments in grain industry infrastructure could catalyze production transition and expansion among regional producers. New Venture Advisors conducted a market study of the Northeast for Vermont’s grain industry and developed recommendations aligned with Vermont’s grain production strengths. (2020)
Sustainable Food Center Visioning Initiative
The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) is an Austin-based nonprofit organization with involvement in every aspect of the local, Central Texas, food system. SFC works to cultivate a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and increasing access to nutritious, affordable food. In looking ahead, SFC asked, “How is the local food system likely to evolve, and what is our future as the centerpiece of this changing food system?” SFC worked with NVA to refresh its vision by answering these and the many underlying questions in order to clarify its future role, structure and plans. (2019)
Food System Partners of McHenry County
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) works to preserve natural and agricultural land in and around McHenry County, IL. TLC believes that agriculture can and should work with nature, not against it, to provide good food, clean water, healthy soil and a robust economy. TLC has been working in partnership with many local groups, agencies, farmers, landowners and others with the long-term goal of getting more people producing healthy food in a regenerative way in McHenry County and the larger foodshed. New Venture Advisors facilitated a summit inviting these groups to explore ideas for a shared vision and identified opportunities to work together toward a stronger, more resilient food and farm system. (2019)
Kane County Food Hub
Kane County Planning engaged New Venture Advisors to assist in the development of a food hub that serves Kane County residents as well as the greater Chicago foodshed. A feasibility study identified a multi-million dollar opportunity to aggregate from Kane County farmers and distribute to customers across the region. A unique business model ensured the hub’s products will reach Kane County low-income residents and institutions that serve these communities. An owner/operator was selected and the food hub piloted operations in 2018. New Venture Advisors developed a strategic plan and roadmap to guide the food hub’s first full year of operations. (2019) Read the report here.
Kansas Statewide Food Distribution Study
The Sunflower Foundation: Health Care for Kansans directs resources toward helping Kansans and Kansas communities achieve and maintain optimal health. Access to fresh food in the many rural communities across the state is of chief concern as rural grocery stores continue to close at an alarming rate. Together with the Rural Grocery Initiative at K-State, Sunflower and NVA assessed the food distribution landscape in Kansas to propose innovative, alternative strategies that will provide critical support to rural grocery stores throughout the state of Kansas. (2018)
Far-Northern California Ag Cluster Study
Shasta Regional Transportation Agency (SRTA) works to develop cost-effective transportation investment strategies that connect communities, people and goods. New Venture Advisors assisted SRTA and its project partners in evaluating the potential to develop agricultural clusters in far-northern California that coordinate and consolidate wholesaling and distribution activities to reduce greenhouse emissions, expand economic opportunity throughout the region and more effectively utilize California’s freight corridors. (2017)
Mohawk Valley Food System Assessment
New Venture Advisors conducted the Mohawk Valley Food System Assessment under the sponsorship of Empire State Development and in partnership with Cornell University Cooperative Extension. The purpose of the study was to determine the types of food businesses that could boost the agricultural sector and occupy a former textile mill in Cobleskill, NY. The team identified a number of high priority business to evaluate, and New Venture Advisors developed breakeven financial models to enable them to determine if and how to move forward. (2016)
Crawford County Community Food Assessment
Under the guidance of Eat Well Crawford County and with support from Kansas State University’s Center for Engagement and Community Development, New Venture Advisors conducted a Food Systems Assessment of Crawford County, among the lowest-income counties in Kansas. The goal of this study was to develop a prioritized action plan to focus Eat Well’s efforts with respect to local food systems development and health equity for the next several years. The Food Systems Assessment was conducted through interviews and a full day session with over fifty stakeholders across the county. (2015)
Casper Community Food Assessment
Bould Development aims to strengthen the local food system to increase the health and prosperity of the Casper community. The project’s ambitious leader is a medical student who believes that the food system is the nation’s primary healthcare system, and that building a better food system is foundational to better health for his community. Through funding from USDA, Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming, Casper Area Economic Development Alliance, Casper Community Greenhouse Project, and Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center, New Venture Advisors led a Community Food Assessment to identify barriers to and strategies for the development of a more robust food system for the Casper area. (2015)
Bridgeport Downtown Development
Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District is focused on the development and revitalization of downtown Bridgeport, CT. New Venture Advisors worked with Carmody Consulting on the development of an action plan to revitalize Bridgeport’s downtown district through food enterprise development, based on a series of interviews and a community planning session. (2015)
Local Food System Assessment for Northern Virginia
This study laid the groundwork for Blue Ridge Produce, a for-profit aggregation and distribution company serving wholesale customers in Washington, D.C. The report examined the agricultural and business landscape and identified the opportunity for business development. From this foundation the Blue Ridge team was quickly able to complete its feasibility assessment, adding the rigorous financial analysis typically conducted in a feasibility study, then its business plan, and raise capital for startup in May 2011. Read the report here. (2010)
Ready to Grow: A Plan for Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Production
The Ready to Grow study began with survey of Illinois farmers to better understand what prevented them from increasing specialty crop production. This barrier assessment provided strong evidence that food hubs could be successful in solving those barriers, and suggested the type of services and locations which might be most effective. FamilyFarmed.org initiated and secured funding for this study, and as an outcome of this work, two Illinois food hubs were launched in 2011. Read the report here. (2010)