When Andy Wood ’18 was looking for internships last year, Charlottesville’s Local Food Hub kept popping up as a great opportunity. The nonprofit operates programs to increase access to fresh, local food, as well as helps farmers by providing technical assistance, financial support and training. For Wood, who is a junior at the University of Southern California (USC) studying social entrepreneurship and sustainability, the organization’s mission aligned well with his interests. When the pandemic hit and sent Wood back to Charlottesville last May, he reached out.
“COVID was hard on the local food system,” says Stasia Greenewalt, who serves as the organization’s director of grower services. “We are basically only four people, and all of us were suddenly working 70-hour weeks to meet the needs of the community. Andy joining us with his wonderful skills was an amazing help.”
Wood credits Zach Minster, his Upper School computer science instructor, for creating a robust curriculum that provided Wood with a strong background in web development, programming and data analysis that made him a flexible member of the Local Food Hub team. One of Wood’s primary focuses during his internship has been the organization's drive-through market, which began after COVID-19 hit last spring. By tracking and marketing sales data from those markets, he discovered that the Local Food Hub has fulfilled nearly 10,000 orders, collaborated with over 40 local farmers and businesses, and reinvested over $750,000 in the local food economy.
“Digging through that data to find sales trends and opportunities has been a great learning experience,” Wood says. “We’re coming up on one year of operating the market, so I’m especially excited to start looking at complete season trends and being able to better advise our market vendors.”
Wood also had the opportunity to create branding materials, including a logo and website, for the Eastern Food Hub Collaborative, a network of 12 (and growing) East Coast food hubs working to expand local food systems across state lines.
“This project has been especially rewarding because I’ve been able to learn from food hub directors from Vermont to South Carolina, and really get an understanding of the challenges that these organizations face to grow their operations,” says Wood.
Now back at USC, Wood is continuing his internship. He is currently creating a marketing campaign for the drive-through market and helping develop a food safety record keeping platform for partner farms. After graduating, Wood plans to continue his work in the field by finding new opportunities to expand access to fresh, local, sustainable food.
There is a lot of room for innovation in sustainable agriculture and food systems, especially now that COVID-19 has underscored how fragile, inequitable and unsustainable the current industrial food system is,” Wood says. “I’m looking forward to a busy career.