USDA Awards Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12 Grant for Healthy PlanEat Startup
When not teaching classes on agriculture, sustainability, and the environment, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12 can be found working on her sustainable food and farming startup Healthy PlanEat.
Healthy PlanEat, based in Lyme, Conn., allows farmers who grow food in sustainable ways to sell their crops directly to both individuals and wholesale customers using an app and aims to increase access to healthy, local, and sustainably grown food. In November, Healthy PlanEat received a $52,000 grant through the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
According to the USDA , “These grants will help maximize opportunities for economic growth and ingenuity in local and regional food systems to kickstart this transformation.”
Indeed, Ostfeld plans to use the grant money to help Healthy PlanEat scale up with new website development, expansion of the shipping program, and marketing.
“Ultimately, this grant will enable Healthy PlanEat to reach more people who are interested in shopping from sustainable local farms and food artisans,” Ostfeld explained. “We will be expanding the number of pick up locations we offer and our sustainable shipping program. This grant will help us reach more customers, including those in rural and in urban areas.”
Healthy PlanEat has previously received grants from UConn Extension’s Put Local On Your Tray, which enabled the organization to build a branch of Farm to School programs, and the Connecticut Entrepreneurship Foundation, which provided the opportunity to pilot a shipping program where people could order sustainably grown vegetables and receive them at their homes.
Ostfeld has been interested in sustainable agriculture for many years and even worked on an organic farm after her first year as an undergraduate at Wesleyan.
“I was lucky to grow up eating a lot of healthy, local, and sustainably grown food. I thought a lot about the idea for Healthy PlanEat while I was doing my PhD,” Ostfeld recalled. “I was studying sustainable agriculture and saw how sustainable growing practices, increased transparency, and supply chain traceability could help address social and environmental issues in our food system.”
Ostfeld built the first version of the Healthy PlanEat website herself and ran a fundraising campaign to build the second version. She now works with a whole team of farming partners and even has several interns. In February, 2021, Connecticut Magazine named Ostfeld to their “40 Under 40” list.
Currently, she is reaching out to more farms to join Healthy PlanEat and is working to find a full stack developer.
“I’ve also been working a lot with the current farmers who are part of Healthy PlanEat to get feedback on how the online platform can be improved,” Ostfeld added. “It’s fun. It’s very engaging and I really like working with the farmers. I’m getting feedback from customers, too. I really enjoy the people side of what I do and creating new things with people I care about.”