About Us

How We Got Started

Under the guidance of the Partnership for Better Health, a series of roundtable discussions were held from 2017-2018 with the purpose of developing a sustainable local food system that promotes economic vitality, increases food security, promotes wellness and advances community resilience. 

Participants studied the extent of food insecurity (the lack of reliable access to nutritious, healthy food) in Cumberland County, reviewed promising practices and model programs, and identified strategies that might improve food security for vulnerable populations and address local agricultural challenges. Ultimately, roundtable members agreed that they could best impact the problem by convening a networking and coordinating group. The Cumberland County Food System Alliance officially formed in September 2018.

Purpose & Objectives

The purpose of the Cumberland County Food System Alliance is to support a sustainable local food system that promotes economic vitality, increases food security, promotes wellness and advances community resilience in Cumberland County.

Current Objectives:

  1. Foster networking and food systems education.
  2. Coordinate local food systems efforts.
  3. Explore food systems collaboration and pooling of resources where appropriate.
  4. Stay apprised of important food systems health and access issues and serve as a repository of relevant data and resources.
  5. Advance food policy and advocacy work.

Guiding Principles

The Cumberland County Food System Alliance has three principles that guide work within Cumberland County and the surrounding area.

Food Security

All people have the right to food security, which means having reliable access to nutritious food. We seek approaches to addressing food insecurity that go beyond the immediate task of feeding people who are hungry to working toward developing sustainable, systemic solutions to end hunger.

Systems Change

Our pursuits will include systems change strategies that empower and educate people, build on strengths within families and communities, challenge mindsets and structural barriers to social equity with an emphasis on ending poverty and systemic racism, by offering alternatives to business as usual.


We will prioritize approaches and solutions that can be implemented and sustained over the long term and where possible, we will pursue solutions that coordinate with and support our local food economy and enhance the interconnectivity of our larger local food system.

Leadership Team

Leadership Council for 2024-2025:

  • Heather Bedi, PhD, Dickinson College
  • Chris Connor, Shippensburg Produce and Outreach
  • Diana Dellinger, United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Council Chair)
  • Manal El Harrak, MBA, Sadler Health Center
  • Laura Whitaker Escobar, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank
  • Russ Hedberg, PhD, Shippensburg University
  • Mary Ann Leidigh, MEd, Shippensburg University, Center for Land Use & Sustainability (Project Management Support)
  • Lisa Maddux, Project SHARE
  • Amy Santarelli, Penn State Extension
  • Stephanie Williams, Cumberland County Planning Department
  • Gail Witwer, Partnership for Better Health
  • Zach Zook, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank

We are in the process of developing work groups and looking to expand our community partners. Please contact us at: [email protected] to learn how you can get involved!