Good Eats: The Greater Philadelphia Food Economy, and Good Food’s Potential to Drive Growth, Improve Health, and Expand Opportunity

Posted by Economy League of Greater Philadelphia on November 26, 2019
Food fuels more than just our bodies. In Greater Philadelphia, food-based businesses fuel commercial activity and create jobs for thousands of individuals. Businesses and individuals that participate along the food supply chain comprise what we call the “food economy,” whether they are small businesses or multinationals, corner stores or global shippers.

This assessment builds on definitions in the 2011 report, “Eating Here: Greater Philadelphia’s Food Systems Plan,” from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). Drawing from North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS), the food economy comprises activity within six distinct industry sectors: food production, food processing, food distribution, food retail, food hospitality, and food waste and recovery. Not all businesses fit squarely into one sector. For example, ReAnimator Coffee, a Philadelphia-based coffee company that roasts coffee beans, sells them to businesses and individuals, and operates coffee shops, could be categorized as a processor, retailer, and hospitality business. Though cross-sector business activity like this is common, a sector-based analytical approach allows for comparison and isolation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges within segments of the food economy.

In Greater Philadelphia today, too few people have access to good jobs, too many communities struggle with high rates of poverty and food insecurity, and economic growth is uneven and inequitable. A good food economy provides living wage jobs, strengthens local supply chains, and supports expanded access to health-promoting food. Finding effective ways to encourage and support food-related commerce, particularly good food businesses, can go a long way in driving growth, promoting health, and expanding opportunity in our region.

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