For Immediate Release
North Carolina Sea Grant is among the sponsors of — and hosts for — the new RISE for Local Foods Internship program from the N.C. Local Food Council to support local producers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officially known as the Remote Internship to Support Enterprises (RISE) for Local Foods, the program has matched seven college interns with eight regional food, farming, and seafood organizations to help the organizations and the producers they serve to improve their direct marketing or online presence due to impacts of COVID-19. In addition to the Food Council and Sea Grant, funding sponsors for the internship include Self-Help Credit Union and Resourceful Communities.
With a variety of backgrounds, interests, and skills, the RISE interns are being paid to help hosts improve their profitability and connection to local consumers while learning about food systems and supply chains directly. “All while keeping students and businesses safe through completely virtual work,” explains Angel Cruz of the Food Council.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns disrupted food supply chains and demonstrated the fragility of people’s access to healthy foods. The pandemic changed the way food is grown, distributed, accessed, prepared, and eaten across the state,” Cruz added in a news release.
“Communities continue to struggle and the state’s local farms, food hubs, and fisheries are constantly developing new strategies to sell products directly to the consumers who want and need it. Businesses who have been able to adapt their online sales and marketing presence have seen greater market success.”
Barry Nash, who chairs the Food Council, is North Carolina Sea Grant’s seafood technology and marketing specialist. He notes that competency in direct marketing requires a familiarity with technology and a commitment of time that not all producers and organizations currently have.
“Our demonstration project will help seafood businesses jumpstart or adapt their online presence to meet current consumer demands, and provide a format that they can maintain on their own in the future” Nash notes.
Sienna Zuco, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is working with North Carolina Sea Grant. Her project includes working with Nash to help companies develop online sales capabilities and social media presences, while creating educational content for consumers about the importance of local seafood.
Zuco is working towards a degree in Global and Environmental Studies with a focus in sustainability, and previously interned with the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce.
Other hosts and interns include:
Greensboro Farmers Market: Sarah White, NC State University
Carrboro Farmers Market and Surry County Farmers Market: Elizabeth Campbell , UNC-Chapel Hill
Resourceful Communities: Aditya Vhanmane, NC State
Grocers on Wheels: Divya Lipscomb, NC State
N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Visit NC Farms App: Taylor Sweet, High Point University
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture: Carlisle Poteat-Deblock, Appalachian State University