Exploring Value-Added Food Security Partnerships on the Western Slope

Western Region



(Delta, Montrose)

Primary Topic:

Economic and Community Development

Other Topics:

Food and Agriculture

Lead Mentor:  

Nicole Didero

Extension Regional Specialist (Western Region), Food & Agriculture-Rural Engagement Initiative

Internship Overview:

This internship program will explore the benefits of an innovative partnership opportunity between a major Feeding America food bank and various small- to mid-scale agricultural producers. This internship will play an integral role in piloting a fee-for-service model where agricultural producers can partner with the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies (FBR) to dehydrate fruit/vegetables in the new FBR commercial kitchen from seconds that would normally be composted or go to lower value uses. In using this service, FBR will be paid to process and package the product, thus allowing the producer to explore value-added sales without taking on the cost burden of single-use equipment and additional labor. Food Bank of the Rockies, which has heavily invested in its dehydration facilities to provide nutritious food to hunger relief partners, will explore whether the fee-for-service program helps off-set its costs while not significantly disrupting their dehydration program.
Essential roles provided by the intern will be in collecting data about the labor and other costs required for partnership success (from on-farm selection of produce to final delivery of a packaged, value-added product) and other economic and food systems-related metrics important to the producers and the FBR (e.g., dehydrated product packaging costs, logistical coordination requirements, consumer interests/feedback in dehydrated products).

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

Goal: To pilot and evaluate a fee-for-service model where agricultural producers can pay for dehydration services of fruits and vegetables for sale as a food safe, marketable value-added product.
Scope: The intern will work with CSU and local stakeholders to pilot dehydration of select fruit/vegetables for value-added sales. The initial phase of the internship will be dedicated to finalizing the participating producer list, capacity/expectations alignment for workflow with FBR, training up for CSU data collection process, logistical planning based around produce procurement, coordination of produce delivery schedule, and testing timeline for value-added processing, packaging, and delivery. Active dehydration pilots will occur mostly in July as produce becomes available, and the intern will also be involved in the actual processing of produce for dehydration (e.g., washing, pitting, cutting, traying). A typical workweek will include confirming produce harvest and delivery schedules, collecting labor data logs from producers, and actively participating in the dehydration process at FBR. Data will be entered and submitted for quality control (QC) in addition to a brief written summary of the week’s activities. August will entail wrapping up pilot efforts, preparing findings for poster presentation, and final stakeholder and mentor meetings for completion of the internship experience.
1) To provide a meaningful and educational CSU internship experience
2) Pilot and evaluate the fee-for-service dehydration partnership model
3) Identify if further efforts are warranted for develop a long-term fee-for service model applicable to various food institutions

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

Food Bank of the Rockies, local agricultural producers in Delta & Mesa counties, Delta County Administration, CSU Agricultural Experiment Station

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

The student will gain understanding about the many elements of a local food system from fresh food production (including on-farm visits) to produce procurement and processing to retail sale of a value-added products. They will learn about food security from a community and institutional perspective. Finally, they will gain experience in scientific methods, and organized data collection and reporting (with an emphasis on storytelling with data). The Western Slope is an opportune location for young professionals looking for professional development in food systems. They will have a unique opportunity to learn about working with stakeholders in the field (e.g., working with real agricultural producers during their production season) as a representative of CSU. Additionally, the intern will be able to meet many CSU staff on the Western Slope (Agricultural Experiment Research Station, Colorado State Forest Service, Western Slope Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Extension) and are encouraged to carry out professional interviews/tours with any entities which strike their interest in the realm of the internship.
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