Small Bites Feb 24, 2021
Texas-sized lessons to be learned
created for farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, grocers, & anyone else interested in how food moves
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H-E-B serving Austin, TX with free groceries
More than ever, in the past 11 months, we have seen food stores step up & help their community. In so many ways our stores have given back while navigating the multitude of uncertainty. Community connections & reverence felt by our shoppers to their stores has been reinforced.
Long known for its commitment to community- few large supermarkets care as much as Texas based H-E-B & even fewer have a lovefest with their shoppers.
"An Austin-area H-E-B supermarket lost power during the historic winter storm last week, allowing customers to leave the store without paying for groceries. A Facebook post went viral nationwide, praising the Texas grocery chain for their generosity. T. Hennessy was in the store with his wife trying to stock up for the next ‘historically, crazy weather.’ The power went out halfway during their shopping, according to Hennessy in his Facebook post. He then heard an employee asking customers to bring their carts to the checkout lines. About a hundred shoppers, including Hennessy and his wife followed.” These shoppers received all their groceries at no charge & were encouraged to be safe as they left the store for home.
Lessons learned: Community connections & generosity help ease the pain of uncertainty in a climate emergency. How are we all going to do this when our time comes? What can our stores learn & emulate from H-E-B & this climate calamity?
Learning from Texas: Listen in on a Texas cattle rancher talk about keeping cattle alive in last weeks' storm& its relevance to supply chains. "Putting your nose down & keep grinding until you get the job done. There'll be sunshine one of these days."
One thing we know, everyone is impacted by climate change & supply chain disruptions. Is an a Federal Office of Supply Chain needed for collective oversight to more effectively integrate comprehensive policies to minimize disruptions? These could include freight needs, workforce & immigration policies to develop worker-talent pipelines, support collaborative innovation for reducing fossil fuel in the ag-food sector, & mapping regional strengths & weakness responses to feeding the population in disasters. As was clearly apparent with the Texas catastrophe, nationally we operate in a disjointed supply chain. A House of Representative bill H.R. 1024 was introduced by Bradley Scott (D. IL-10) to address a national approach to the complex & interconnection of supply chains. This idea would help create a government framework to address issues that abruptly came to light in 2020 with the pandemic & is highlighted with every disaster. 
Trainings & tools
VSFA has fantastic twice a month semi-casual "lounge meet-ups" for specialty food producers. B2B exchanges of targeted topics. Become at member of VSFA!
Rising Stars is a team of business advisers with years of experience training in Vermont. Join Farm to Plate collaborator Mark Mulcahy & the team on March 3rd for a free webinar: Communicating With Your Staff in a Crisis .An affordable four-part series follows March 17 & 31, April 14 & 28.

Farm to Plate Retail Collection has useful operational assessments to review before stores get super busy with summer sales: Produce merchandising assessment.
It's past time to address shipping & packaging
Online shopping across all categories has increased significantly with the pandemic. Along with this change comes opportunities for shoppers to try new products & producers to expand market channels. It also creates an unfathomable waste stream.
We have heard of & seen upticks of the sale of Vermont online food products. Initial uncertainties associated with changes in consumer behavior have given way to new sales channels that have been favorable in creating new or stronger revenue streams for our businesses. It has also driven them to address packaging waste.
Blue Ledge Farm in Leicester sought shipping changes. As noted in an archived Small Bites, alternatives to cardboard packaging are on the rise by rethinking & new modes of shipping. Boox has created reusable mailer/shipper boxes with velcro fasteners. Each plastic container box can be used up to 12 times before it is recycled. Pricing is about $2.00 per container or $1.25 over a cardboard box. Costs are usually passed on to the shopper at checkout as a sustainability charge.
"Each Boox can be reused about a dozen times. Once returned, they’re quarantined for a week then cleaned using organic soap and water before being redeployed for more deliveries. Once the box is done for good, and be turned into more boxes more efficiently than cardboard recycling."
Shopping from home for staples, takeout, necessary items, or for the frivolous has generated enormous waste. Recycling centers are overwhelmed & change is necessary from a climate-energy-waste perspective. What is your business doing to address these issues associated with the increase of online sales & the increase in packaging waste?
Here are a couple of interesting articles regarding the recent Texas/US climate impacts on localized & global food production & distribution.
Farm to Plate Strategic Plan includes easy to digest Briefs to help policy makers, producers & retailers understand the future of ag & ag- adjacent businesses. Explore the Brief on Climate Change.
Contact: Annie H Harlow

Unless otherwise noted, photo credits are from linked company social media, websites or Annie Harlow
Photo Credits: Trash; Brian Richmond; H-E-B: TR Henny;
One World: image by Marcus Spiske
Grateful for the funding support provided by High Meadows Fund
Week 52 of Covid Feb 24, 2021