By: Maureen McNamara Best, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) (www.leapforlocalfood.org)
We all eat. So that means we all understand, value, and think about food, agriculture, and food producers, right?
As a society, our school systems and holidays still nod to our agrarian past. But for most us, our lives are not structured around soil preparation, planting time, harvest schedules, or feeding livestock. And, if at all, we only spend a couple minutes a day thinking about where our food comes—and that time is probably focused on the logistics of purchasing food from a retailer and/or consuming a prepared meal. In a complex, industrialized society— we specialize. And in that sense, the food industry is no different. But at what cost? Read more
Do you have questions about community, local, and regional food systems? Do you want to have a solid foundation of terms, concepts, perspectives, and potential practices?
Are you an educator involved in community development and change processes? Do you want to better understand localized food systems as a social movement?
Click here to see a compilation of articles and reports that can give you a sound understanding of community, local, and regional food systems. The list contains reports on recent trends in local and regional foods, discussion on the meaning of local foods, a glossary of terms, and how land-grant universities like Virginia Tech and Virginia State University can strengthen community, local and regional food systems.
Interest in more durable farm-to-market linkages along the food value chain continues to grow. A key component for making these market linkages is having accessible points of aggregation and distribution. Regional food hubs have developed in Virginia and across the country to serve this purpose. Food hubs are a critical food system link and an accessible point for producers, processors, and distributors to retail, wholesale, and institutional markets.
The Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA serves as a critical link for regional farmers and businesses in central Virginia.
The US Department of Agriculture defines a regional food hub as a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy retail, wholesale, and institutional demand. If you are interested in learning more about regional food hubs, below are some guides and informational reports in the form of an annotated bibliography to get you started. Read more
by Liz Kirchner, Virginia SARE Outreach Coordinator and Healthy Food Access Project, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Northern District
Home garden food production – even if that means a tomato in a bucket – is widely recognized to contribute to household nutrition and self-reliance. Garden produce strengthens ties between neighbors as those tomatoes are swapped, and maintains traditional foodways as gardening stories, seeds, and cooking skills are shared. However, not everybody realizes that SNAP benefits can be used to purchase seeds and seedlings, a caveat to the 1973 Farm Bill gauged to help people plant gardens. To raise awareness – and home gardens, too – Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Health Food Access program will host a series of seedling planting events with food pantry clients throughout the spring.
We will begin in May, after the frost-free date. The project goal is to send SNAP clients and other food pantry participants home with a planted seedling and a mapped list of nearby SNAP retailers who sell seedlings. Retailers identified using the ArcGIS, Google Maps, and the Buy Fresh Buy Local Guide include Walmart, some Food Lions, independent groceries, and the Staunton, Dayton, Waynesboro, and Harrisonburg Farmers’ Markets. (Continue reading)
Brittney Linkous, 9, of Christiansburg smells Holy Basil at the New River Valley Community Health Center’s Farmacy Garden. In exchange for volunteering, her family harvests vegetables from the garden.
While “take two kale and call me in the morning,” is not exactly the prescription you would receive from a doctor at most health clinics, patients at the New River Valley Community Health Center do indeed receive a prescription to the New River Health District’s Farmacy Garden for doctor’s ordered physical activity and an injection of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The garden, encircled by a white picket fence and located directly behind the center, is a collaboration of Virginia Cooperative Extension, the supplemental nutrition assistance programs’ Women, Infants, and Children program, and the New River Health District.
On a recent Thursday evening community members gathered for a potluck at the garden where Extension agents were on hand for cooking and planting demos.
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