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‘Wayne Tomorrow’ helps provide food and jobs today

By David Hulse
April 30, 2014

HONESDALE, PA — A county visioning plan for meshing the initiatives of Wayne County’s business, government and cultural communities is expected to produce new jobs for students and outlets for Wayne agricultural products, a county official reported on April 24.

Andrea Whyte, Wayne administrator of human services, appeared before the county commissioners to seek their approval in filing for a $100,000 federal “Food to School Grant.” The agriculture department grant totaling $154,237, with included matching state and local in-kind services, would provide a “safe and steady supply” of locally grown agricultural products for county schools.

She credited the integrated work group apparatus of varied community groups created by the commissioners’ 2012 “Wayne Tomorrow Initiative” in putting the grant application together. Whyte noted the involvement of local business and agriculture groups and the Penn State Cooperative Extension for their work on the grant application.

“Wayne Tomorrow” created work groups in agriculture, business and economic development, quality of life, sustainability and workforce/education, which were identified as “key areas [that] are the backbone to create a future.”

The visioning plan stated that “It is important for people who share a common thread to be able to hear each other’s vision. With this discussion, we will be able to develop mutual respect and recognition of a shared goal and desire to create a vibrant Wayne County for future generations.”

Or as Whyte said last week, “to focus on what we all do and are best at.”

Whyte praised the visioning initiative. “It’s rare that something comes up offering opportunities for people to talk about things they feel are important. You hear something about it almost everywhere you go.”

Whyte said the grant would provide agricultural jobs for young adults with behavioral or physical disabilities, “allowing their abilities to come into focus.”

The program will also create a “food hub” to provide storage and refrigeration for produce prior to distribution. Youths would work and be trained there. “The kids will not only get work, but gain an awareness of the process,” she said.

Whyte said the program would not interfere or compete with existing farmers’ markets.

Whyte was optimistic about Wayne’s chances in winning the competitive grant because the county was providing 35%, instead of the required 25% of the local share.

In joining in approval of the grant, Commissioner Jonathan Fritz noted that the county has deep agricultural roots and the program was “an opportunity to put its farm assets to use.”