Duane Perry, KILP-02, Executive Director, The Food Trust, Philadelphia.
This article was originally published in the July 2005 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Philadelphia schools have the strongest healthy beverage policy in the country, due in large part to Duane Perry and The Food Trust. Duane founded The Food Trust, a nonprofi t organization, in 1992 to promote nutrition education in schools and increase the availability of affordable, nutritious food in communities. Now, The Food Trust is working to take the healthy beverage policy statewide, giving students a choice of 100-percent fruit juice, milk, or water. The Food Trust also works on-the-ground in schools. It developed the School Market Program, creating student-led farmer's markets to give students some experience in marketing and selling, and to offer students and staff nutritious food choices in their own school. "The school markets teach students about the importance of healthy food as they attempt to persuade their fellow students to buy their products," explains Duane. The Food Trust has developed a curriculum on the School Market Program for teachers, and hopes to expand the program nationally. (This curriculum may be downloaded from www. TheFoodTrust.org.) Before creating The Food Trust, Duane worked at Reading Terminal Market, a year-round, fresh-produce market in downtown Philadelphia. When the market was threatened by a redevelopment project, Duane helped foment a tremendous outpouring of community support that convinced city planners of the value of the market, both from an economic development and a nutritional standpoint. Now, The Food Trust works to secure funding from the state's economic-stimulus program to attract fresh food markets in underserved communities. The strategy is to promote healthy eating and create new jobs by locating supermarkets and farmer's markets in urban and rural areas with few stores and high unemployment rates. To date, The Food Trust has leveraged $140 million for the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. Says Duane, "We've worked to convince the legislators that providing vital food resources and amenities can help revitalize these communities." Duane's advice to others working in his field is: Create a great vision that is both clear and understandable, and just out of reach. "People can grasp our vision, which is about creating affordable sources of good, nutritious food," he says. "They can get behind that." He comments, "The great thing about this field is it's so easy to build bridges around food. We all eat; we all like food. It's something we can all share in. That makes it easy to find common ground. It's work that can cross many fields and bring us together."