This article is actually about helping guard our food supply, but I thought the key sentence in the article is that the food industry operates on only a three day food inventory in most parts of the country. Scary. PENNSYLVANIA: Del Val College: Helping guard our food supply 22.feb.08 Higher Ed Law Prof Blog Jim Castagnera http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/highered/2008/02/del-val-college.html Poison toothpaste and dog food from China… salmonella in eggs, botulism in beef, PCBs and mercury in fish… mad cow disease, anthrax… the list of threats to our food is as long as the Klumps’ grocery order. Was a time when farmers drove their trucks through my hometown of Jim Thorpe, hawking their fresh-picked produce. Lancaster’s Amish and South Jersey’s fruit and tomato growers still bring some fine foods to our farmers’ markets. But the hard fact is that we are eating seafood from Southeast Asia, fruit from Mexico and Chile, beef from Australia. Seventy-seven percent of Americans polled believe a terrorist attack on our global food chain is likely. Tom Kennedy, director of the Food and Agribusiness MBA at Delaware Valley College, fears these folks may be dead right. “The system is very porous,” he says. Consequently, “Food security has now become food defense.” Kennedy, a lanky, gray-haired Irishman, first became involved in “food defense” at St. Joseph’s University in Philly, where he was a principal investigator on a $ 1.8 million Food and Drug Administration grant awarded under the 2002 Bioterrorism Act. The goal of the grant was to educate executives up and down the food chain, as well as first-responders, who might have to deal with an attack on our food supply. How vulnerable are we (mostly overweight) Americans? Explains Kennedy, “With profit margins razor thin, the food industry operates on a just-in-time delivery model. This means there’s only a three-day food inventory in most parts of the country. Here on the east coast we have the greatest population densities and largest port facilities. “Just imagine an anthrax attack on the food center in the port of Philadelphia. Do you remember when a little bit of anthrax shut down the Hamilton, New Jersey, post office for years?” he asks. So… when Tom Kennedy moved from St. Joe’s to Del Val College in Bucks County three years ago, he brought along his commitment to protecting the American public from agro-terrorism. “After Nine-Eleven, I wondered what an ordinary guy like me could do. I’ve since found out there is a lot.” Del Val College is unique among the hundreds of colleges and universities here in eastern Pennsylvania. Some 1600 undergraduates, plus a couple of hundred grad students, study everything from horticulture (which makes for a gorgeous campus) to dairy farming. The 600-acre campus just south of Doylestown includes the corn fields where Director M. Night Shyamalan filmed “Signs.” Kennedy continues to work with colleagues at St. Joe’s, developing what he calls “table-top exercises.” Food industry personnel and first-responders are brought together and presented with a food product, a contaminant, and a scenario, then work to solve the situation. Last time, the threat was to the dairy industry. Tom trekked the 65 participants through Del Val’s dairy barns to give them the feel of the business. “Some of the Philadelphia police had never been on a farm,” he chuckled. Recently, he went international, taking on a study of Philly’s port facilities, partially funded by sources in Australia. He won’t say how much the Aussies have kicked in… “That’s proprietary.” Tom wishes ruefully that information on U.S. food inspection and security practices were equally proprietary. “We’re a democracy,” he explains. “Under the Freedom of Information Act, anybody can get a lot of helpful information, if food is the target.” He adds that, “We can’t build walls around our farms.” I look out the window of his car, as we tour the Del Val campus, and note the cattle munching grass right along the highway… point taken. Del Val’s own farmers’ market on Lower State Road does a land-office business. “People more and more want to get food grown close to home when they can,” observes Kennedy. After Tom dropped me back at the market, I thought about all I’d just seen and heard. I went inside, grabbed a cart and loaded up on fresh peppers, lettuce, and corn. No, it wasn’t even a three-day inventory, so here’s hoping folks like Tom Kennedy keep the cornucopia safely overflowing. Jim Castagnera of Havertown is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University.