Allison Blansfield, Value Chain Manager at sweetgreen
Why did you join the NESAWG board: I joined the NESAWG board because I want to assist in the great local/regional food systems work being done in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. As a Value Chain Coordinator for sweetgreen, I think I can bring a unique perspective to the work being done to help scale small, sustainable farmers meet the needs of wholesale buyers, while at the same time, continuing to learn how we can best support these farmers in building successful businesses. Additionally, I want to volunteer my personal time to further the work being done to create a more equitable, just, and fair supply chain for all participants - this is so incredibly important and I am honored to be able to serve this mission!
What you do: In my role as Value Chain Manager at sweetgreen, I am creating relationships with growers along the East Coast to supply our DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, and Boston markets.Started 10 years ago, sweetgreen is on a mission to build healthier communities by connecting people to real food. sweetgreen passionately believes that real food should be convenient and accessible to everyone. Every day in each sweetgreen, 3,500 team members make food from scratch, using fresh ingredients and produce delivered that morning.
Each market largely functions as its own supply chain, so most of my work is around coordinating all partners involved in the supply chain, from farmer to restaurant. Additionally, I am helping to lead sweetgreen's national value chain strategy. How do we leverage our model to support farmers investing in the health of their soil, their employees, and the environment? This is the question I ask myself each day as we continue to evolve and grow.
What is your motivation for doing this work: My motivation is to add fuel to the fire, to the amazing energy and focus currently on local/regional food systems, small farms, and soil health! The time to act is now, consumers are hungry for better food, more transparency, and knowing what their dollars are supporting. I stay motivated to capture this energy and put it to work to drive structural change in our industrialized food system.
How did you end up doing this: My path to this role is somewhat long, but has coursed continually in the same direction (following my North Star?). I have always been passionate about science, the outdoors, getting my hands dirty, and serving a mission. So, it seemed natural, after graduating from the Ag School at the University of Delaware, that I wanted to be an urban farmer. I managed an urban farm in West Philadelphia for five years, working right at the intersection of growing food and building community. It was there that I hosted a group of sweetgreen employees, from a newly opened store in Philly, on the farm for an entire day. There, I truly saw how sweetgreen was 'walking the walk'. I left that day so inspired by the great work that was being done at a large scale. Needless to say, my roots will always be in West Philly, but I am so excited to bring my passion to sweetgreen and see it unfold at a larger scale.
What are three tips you’d recommend to anyone who wanted to do this: 1) Follow your passion! Companies like sweetgreen are looking for passion and real experience on the ground (or in the soil), more than anything. 2) Balance is key - it is not always easy to find the win-win. Get creative. 3) Be yourself.
What books or authors do you recommend to learn about the food system: 1) Dan Barber's "The Third Plate" 2) Douglas Gayeton "Local" 3) American Catch
What has been the hardest lesson or challenge in your work: Inspiring all supply chain partners to find value in doing things the hard way.
How do you want to be remembered: Wow, good question. At the end of the day, I want to be remembered as a great wife, sister, daughter and friend. While I am passionate about the work I am doing each day, what truly matters is how you are remembered by those that you love.