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Tomorrow, Penn School of Design students will travel to the heart of Amish Country to learn about Philadelphia's regional food system.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Professor Domenic Vitiello will lead the Farm to City bus tour to Lancaster County, Pa., where students will visit area farms, distribution sites and the Lancaster Central Market.

Vitiello, who teaches a course called "Metropolitan Food Systems" at the School of Design, said he wants students to explore how food is grown and consumed within the greater Philadelphia area.

"It's becoming increasingly important to understand how land-use strategies and transportation systems can be planned in such a way that we foster greater connections between places like Lancaster County and Berks County and southern New Jersey," Vitiello said.

On the tour this weekend, he will discuss the regional food network's particular importance to impoverished Philadelphians.

"The city of Philadelphia's high poverty rate means that more people are 'food-insecure' than people in most other cities," he said.

Farm to City attendees will also meet with Lancaster Farm Fresh - a cooperative of organic farmers in Lancaster County - and with School of Design Professor Tom Daniels to examine the region's food structure and sustainability.

Daniels, former director of Lancaster County's nationally-recognized Agricultural Preserve Board, worked for nine years to protect Lancaster farmland from commercial development.

Daniels will discuss how recent economic trends make the trip especially timely.

"If we see energy prices go back up again, I think there will be more opportunities for local farmers to produce for local consumers," he said. "The closer you keep your producers to your consumers, the less energy you consume."

Both Vitiello and Daniels said they hope Penn students will educate themselves on their food's significance for Philadelphia and the greater Philadelphia area.

To do so conveniently, Vitiello suggested that students pick up a copy of the local food guide at the White Dog Cafe on Sansom Street, which details locations where students can find organic and locally-produced foods.

Daniels also encouraged students to buy from local producers at places in the city such as Reading Terminal Market.

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