In focusing on economic and community development, UEDA has made the food economy one of its top priorities just as Allen has made the food economy his very top priority.
"Food is the most powerful thing in our lives," Allen said. "That's the one thing that brings us all together – the fact that we have to eat food to survive."
According to Allen, the three things that dictate health are nutrition, exercise and stress management. He believes two-thirds of health problems today are based on a lack of healthy foods.
"If we had healthy people, it would solve a lot of the issues that we have – crime reduction, having enough food, having access to food," Allen said.
It would also help kids learn better, he said.
Allen emphasizes the necessity of locally grown foods so that people are consuming the freshest food possible and absorbing the most nutrients from it.
"Get the food out of the garden, out of the farm into your belly as quick as you can," he said.
Beyond the nutrition, locally grown foods enable consumers to better understand how their food is prepared and if it's safe to eat. Allen said that in the large industrial food system we rely on, there have been significant food scares due to inadequate oversight and minimal food inspections. When consumers do get sick, it takes weeks to track the origin of the food problem and even longer to correct that problem.
He stresses that in a local food system, food issues could be identified and terminated right away.
He also stresses the ability of food systems to stimulate jobs – positions from truck drivers who will transport food to retail workers who will stock shelves with food to developers who will build food stores in communities that are virtual food deserts. Growing Power, Inc. alone has created 120 jobs and will be adding 150 new positions in the coming years.
In regard to his award from UEDA, Allen said he appreciates his work being recognized over a long period of time.
"The honor represents our work and our entire team – not just me as the leader of our team – but our entire team and our entire movement," he said.