By Chris Epes, Associate Extension Agent – Horticulture, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Norfolk, VA
Think of Norfolk, Virginia and you think of a lot of things – unrelated to nutrition problems. It’s home to the world’s largest naval station. Norfolk is military. Located in the heart of Hampton Roads, Norfolk is one of the most important shipping hubs in the world. Norfolk is blue-collar. Norfolk is as urban as it gets in America.
What outsiders may not know is that Norfolk has its fair share, and more, of the kinds of systemic problems that plague urban communities, in addition to essentially being ground zero for sea-level rise. Norfolk faces many challenges. Violent crime, single-income households and nutrition related disease and mortality rates in Norfolk are well above state averages. Not surprisingly, this goes hand in hand with the prevalence of fast food and convenience store-laden neighborhoods as well as food deserts in the area. Read more.
By Ned Savage, AmeriCorps VISTA, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP)
Those of us participating in the Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), in Roanoke, find the concept of a “food shed” to be helpful when considering our regional food system. A food shed is defined as how food moves between producer and consumer. In the Roanoke region, we have defined our food shed as the cities of Roanoke and Salem and the contiguous counties of Roanoke, Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Montgomery, Floyd, and Franklin.
Within our regional food system, a number of counties and communities have done food system assessments/studies and food system plans. Many of these studies are helpful in understanding local- and county-level issues, but if we only think in hyper local terms, then we end up with a piecemeal approach to food system planning. Food does not stop at county or city lines and the infrastructure and connections that sustain strong food systems have to cross political lines. In the fall of 2016, LEAP compiled the existing data, research and plans from throughout the region into one consolidated report that identifies common trends, key barriers, and potential opportunities.
The Roanoke Local Regional Food and Agriculture report, while helpful in considering the state of our regional food system, was notable for its lack of one key voice – the farmer’s. While LEAP has long been engaged in providing additional market outlets for local farmers, we wanted to hear directly from producers what barriers, struggles, and challenges they face to running viable farm businesses, and what else our organization could do to support them and their work. And so, in close collaboration with Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), we researched other models and designed and held a series of Farmer Listening Sessions. Read more.
By Kelli Scott, Montgomery County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension
The conversations around agriculture, food, and community continue to bubble up in localities across the Commonwealth and the nation. County, city, and local government bodies see a benefit and overall positive impact in building a collaborative team among service providers and practitioners working to promote community, local, and regional food systems as an economic driver all while looking at improving food access, health, and nutrition options for all members of the community. The conversations are often messy at first where multi-sectors of the community are working together that may not have done so traditionally. These interwoven teams are often called “food councils” or “food networks” and have a much greater opportunity of success when we all work together. Read more
By Tracy Kunkler, MS – Social Work, professional facilitator, planning consultant, and principal at http://www.circleforward.us/
Image 1 – Photo of AFP team meeting.
In the blog on May 4th, Propositions for Organizing with Complexity; Learnings from the Appalachian Foodshed Project (AFP), Nikki D’Adamo-Damery described nine propositions that emerged from the work of the AFP. Proposition #2 was: “Establish Consent instead of Consensus.” The following story describes one of the experiences that led to this proposition.
This arose when the AFP management team met to award mini-grants to on-the-ground projects that addressed community food security. The team included the principal investigators, graduate students, extension agents, and representatives from community-based organizations, and so reflected some of the diversity of the system within which they were working. The team was using a collaborative decision-making framework, and the basis for decisions was the principle of consent. 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.