Local Concerns Address Food Insecurity, Sustainability, and Accessibility
of Rocky Acres Community Farm, Anabel’s Grocery, and Wegmans participate in a food
industry panel moderated by Alexa Ing Stern, MBA ’17, at the Cornell University
Social Impact Conference.
Giorgi Tsintsadze ’17
distribution, environmental impact, education, and social equity, quantity,
price – all these factors are key to understanding and maintaining a
sustainable agricultural sector and a healthy food market, according to food
industry panelists who spoke at the Cornell
University Social Impact Conference held at Sager Hall Feb. 27.
speaker Kunal Mehta, former investment banker and author of Disruptors: Entrepreneurs and the Escape
from Corporate America, opened the on Feb.27 conference dedicated to “the
many ways to make a positive social impact, no matter your industry or
interests.” The food industry panel, moderated by Alexa Ing Stern, MBA ’17, ran
concurrently with panels focused on sustainable design, apparel, and finance.
began by asking panelists to reflect on their careers and outline the decisions
that led them to their current positions.
Rafael Aponte, founder of Rocky Acres Community Farm, recounted the story of
how he became interested in food and agriculture. While working with nonprofits
as an educator in New York City earlier in his career, Aponte realized that food
insecurity is one of the most prevalent problems in the city. Seeking to
combine his role as an educator with his passion for the food industry, he came
to Tompkins County, a place he saw as “the agricultural hub of New York.” He
described his current work at the Rocky Acres Community Farm as “combining
education and agriculture for both the young and adults.” Rocky Acres Farm is a
researched-oriented, 10-acre farm in Freeville, N.Y. that produces sustainable,
locally harvested vegetables, herbs, meat and eggs
for low-income communities while facilitating interaction between consumers and
agricultural workers focused on food justice and sovereignty issues.
Goodsell, the Green Team leader at Wegmans in Ithaca, outlined the company’s
efforts to provide products and services that are “good for the environment,
people and Wegmans” in her presentation, “Little Steps-Today, Tomorrow,
Together.” Wegmans shows its
commitment to an ecologically and socially sustainable food industry in many
initiatives it has implemented throughout the company’s divisions, from supply
chains to internal operations, including recycling and improvements in energy
efficiency and accessibility. A farmer herself, Goodsell is passionate about
promoting sustainability in the food industry and described how a combination
of smart analytical tools to crunch data, a focus on social impact, and a
strong commitment to the environment can help advance Wegmans’ threefold
mission: to provide products that are ecologically plausible, socially
equitable, and economically viable.
Gorman ’18 and Adam Shelepak ’17, executive directors of Annabel’s Grocery, spoke about the new, nonprofit food store
founded and managed by undergraduate students slated to open on campus in the
basement of Anabel Taylor Hall. It was founded explicitly to address issues of
food insecurity and accessibility at Cornell in response to a recent Cornell
PULSE survey that shows 22 percent of Cornell students
"skipped meals or [did not have] enough to eat because of financial
constraints." Gorman, director of
marketing and customer relations, and Shelepak, director of operations, described
prices, consistently high-quality merchandise, cooking tutorials, community
engagement programs, food literacy events, utensil rentals, and its central
location in Anabel Taylor Hall will help
to make Anabel’s Grocery an effective hub for tackling food insecurity at
The conference concluded with a
networking reception for participants and attendees, including local business
people, graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff.