Urban Core Launches PressBay Food Transfer Hub to Address Community Needs During COVID-19
Across the nation, pandemic-induced panic has resulted in empty grocery store shelves, making access to fresh food and other essential items difficult for some individuals. In Ithaca, New York, Melissa Madden, manager of Urban Core LLC, a Rev member company, saw a solution to provide food security to the community by safely connecting local farms to customers. With Urban Core’s support, she quickly launched the PressBay Food Transfer Hub.
The PressBay Food Transfer Hub provides a curbside farm food transfer on Thursdays (between 3-7pm) from 110-111 Green Street in PressBay Court. Customers place orders directly from participating farms online (the hub does not handle any sales) and then those individual farms drop off the orders to the hub where the orders are aggregated by a small team well-versed in food safety and stored in a walk-in cooler until the designated customer pick-up time on Thursday afternoons.
Backed by Urban Core, and led by Madden, the project has been popular among community members seeking safe and reliable alternatives to shopping at grocery stores during the COVID-19 outbreak and who wish to support local farms.
“We’ve been very careful in making sure that we are doing the right things in terms of health and safety. A representative from the Tompkins County Health Department actually visited the hub in an official capacity and then returned as a customer, so that support has been really awesome,” stated Madden.
Urban Core, a real estate development company focused on adaptive reuse of buildings in Ithaca’s urban core, is a recent addition to Rev’s member base, and is the result of a partnership between John Guttridge, founder and former owner of Brightworks Computer Consulting, and David Kuckuk, a former principal at Thomas and Associates (now Tetra Tech). Guttridge and Kuckuk met while serving on the board of the State Theatre and acquired the old Ithaca Journal printing press and newspaper storage bays in 2012, transforming the complex into the current micro-retail spaces known as PressBay Alley and PressBay Court. Urban Core is also responsible for revitalizing the building that houses the Watershed and the future home of The Downstairs, and is behind the recently proposed Cherry Street renewal project, which aims to bring hospitality, retail, and public gardens to the southern end of Cherry Street, with the potential of creating 25-48 full-time jobs.
As the founder of the Finger Lakes Cider House (another Rev member company) and the Good Life Farm, Madden has strong ties to the local farming and craft beverage community, which she utilized to get the PressBay Food Transfer Hub off the ground so quickly—the project launched on March 26, 2020 and orders have been climbing steadily since.
“I have an extensive background running various CSA models through the Good Life Farm, including spring and full-diet CSAs where I worked closely with other distributing farms,” stated Madden. “The PressBay Alley Food Transfer Hub is the result of these experiences and a re-resourcing conversation I’ve had with myself and Urban Core owners, John Guttridge and David Kuckuk.”
The number of participating farms is growing and being updated on the PressBay Food Transfer Hub’s website weekly. This week, over 20 farms and businesses are offering locally produced goods, such as micro-greens, meats, cheeses, eggs, ciders, and honeys, among other delicious and essential items.
“As this project grows, we want customers to understand that when they are ordering from the farms’ individual websites, that this is not Shopify or Amazon. Every farm’s website and ordering system is going to be a little different and that is a part of protecting the unique culture of our local food system, so please be patient with them and be willing to embrace that uniqueness,” said Madden.