WVU Economics Students Help Grow Ohio Valley Prepare To Open New Market in Wheeling

Photo Provided Supply chain students from West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics are shown listening to Danny Swan of Grow Ohio Valley, an organization working to reduce food insecurity in Wheeling.

A group of West Virginia University supply chain students at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics has struck a partnership with Grow Ohio Valley on a project aimed at reducing “food deserts.”

That project could help with West Virginia’s food access problem and address the problem on a global scale.

Through the partnership, a group of 44 supply chain students from the Supply Chain Technology course at WVU is helping Grow OV get healthy and affordable food into the hands of those who want and need it. Senior global supply chain management major Rena Kobelak said the project has yielded new ways to help eliminate food deserts and provided real-world experiences for students.

“Grow Ohio Valley is an advocate for local food production and distribution that supports food programs in the Ohio Valley region and aims to reduce food deserts in the Wheeling area,” said Kobelak. “This semester, the Supply Chain Management Technology class worked with GOV to support its mission to build thriving communities through local food. With GOV’s newest retail outlet, the Public Market, opening in May 2019, we worked to build out their materials handling, production processes, demand management, retail offerings at the public market and the information management system from field to fork.”

The business students are working to help Grow OV make the Public Market a success. It will be in the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center on Main Street. Holly Leister, a senior supply chain major, said Grow OV is growing the number of local food producers, as well as providing fresh food to Wheeling residents.

“We’ve done the research and we are applying principles we’ve learned in Dr. (John) Saldanha’s class, including understanding what customers want,” Leister said. “Customers want the 7 Rs: the right product at the right place at the right price for the right customer in the right condition at the right time in the right quantity. GOV asked us for help on its supply chain system, which ultimately gets food from those who produce it to those who want it.”

Grow OV was founded in 2014 and has completed the conversion of 2 acres of abandoned urban land into diversified vegetable farms and an additional 3.5 acres in production at a rural farm site. In 2017, Grow OV also planted a 3.5-acre orchard in collaboration with the Wheeling Housing Authority.

“The WVU (Global) Supply Chain Management students have made real-time contributions to Grow Ohio Valley’s new initiatives, including the upcoming launch of the Public Market — a farmer-first local and natural foods store opening in a food desert in downtown Wheeling,” said Eleanor Marshall, Grow OV’s special projects director. “Their in-depth analysis of current systems and work to optimize our business practices helps Grow Ohio Valley to be more effective in serving our vision to achieve regional food security. We are very impressed with the quality of the students’ work and grateful for their lasting contribution to our organization.”

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