Together with other team members, they outlined the challenges in the food system. Restaurants have been hit particularly hard. N.C.’s restaurant economy totals more than 21.4 billion. And many restaurants permanently closed; estimate could reach 1 in 3.
Furthermore, the seven selected industries related to food and food-supply chains bring in more than $28 billion in annual sales to the region, generated by more than 6,400 businesses of all sizes. Guilford and Forsyth counties are home to almost a third of these businesses (1,947 and 1,236 respectively). Caswell County has the fewest at 76 businesses. The following recommendations were suggested:
- Coordinate support to address gaps in the intermediary market by supporting smaller farms and food producers. For example, farmers might band together to tap into the middle market with food cooperatives or food hubs.
- Support local business and agriculture products through institutional purchasing. The Triad has 1,767 institutions that can participate in the NC 10% campaign (a CEFS and N.C. Cooperative Extension initiative), and commit to spend at least 10 percent of their food dollars on NC Grown. Participation from these institutions would have a significant impact on the local food system.
- Invest in infrastructure. Aside from investing in cold storage, the Triad needs to invest in reliable internet infrastructure in the Triad’s cities and towns as well as additional education, digital literacy, and business training support for farmers.