Country Fresh Stops began out of a need for regional food products that were accessible for all segments of the southeast Ohio population – not just in areas of higher population, but also in areas with limited access to fresh, local produce. Started in 2010, the program works with business owners in rural communities to source fresh products and offer them on a consistent basis. Partner locations include corner stores, gas stations, and roadside markets or “pop-up” markets in the most distressed regions of Appalachian Ohio.
As part of the program, Country Fresh Stops partners receive signage, point of purchase materials, handling guides, refrigerated displays (as available), and fresh, local produce deliveries throughout the growing season. Partner locations determine a purchasing and sales budget for the season, and Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture staff coordinate purchasing and deliveries. Products are commonly sourced from the Chesterhill Produce Auction.
Rural Action works to build a food system that includes all aspects of food consumption. In southeast Ohio institutions including colleges, universities, hospitals and schools represent a major economic force as well as a substantial consumer of food and provider of meals. To increase local food production we work with institutional partners and their stakeholders to facilitate and stimulate local food purchases. We provide training and assistance to the producer looking to access institutional markets, as well as for the institution employees on how to economically use local produce.
Currently we are partnering with Hocking College Culinary department and local school districts on a farm to institution to schools project that purchases local produce, has it prepared for consumption in a learning environment by Hocking College culinary arts students, and then distributes to the local school districts for use in the cafeterias. This innovation benefits the culinary student as well as the school district student. Current school district partners include Federal Hocking Local Schools, Athens City Schools, Marietta City Schools, and many others.