Author Archives: kvines

Norfolk Teens With a Purpose (TWP) Gardening Program

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.

Organizing a Farm to Table Meal (Part 2)

In a previous blog Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Megan Dunford, Virginia Farm to Table Coordinator, and Eric Bendfeldt, Community Viability Extension Specialist, provided thoughts for planning a farm to table meal. In Part two, they go into greater detail on tickets, marketing, and print resources for the event.

Things to Consider

Will you sell tickets? In addition to recovering event costs, proceeds from sales could also benefit area agriculture, a local farmers market, or healthy food access programs, like SNAP acceptance or matching value programs at area farmers markets.

  • Is there a maximum number of tickets that can be sold and will they be sold in advance?
    • Consideration should be given to the number of guests the venue can comfortably fit and the number of participating food vendors. By offering pre-sale tickets, you streamline the purchasing process, create positive “buzz” for the event, can monitor registration numbers leading up to the event, and help attendees focus on enjoying their experience once they arrive. Printed tickets could be sold in advance at a local farmers market, grocery store, etc. Online ticket sales can allow for payment flexibility and the chance to reach new audiences who might prefer to sign up for events virtually. Read more.

WEBINAR: Supporting Local Food Councils: A New Professional Development Course

SPEAKERS: Jodee Ellett, Purdue University and Kendra Wills, Michigan State University

January 15, 2018 – 12:00 PM Eastern Time

Jodee Ellett, Local Foods Program Director with Purdue University, and I are launching a new, online professional development course to help Extension and community development colleagues build local food councils. Over 20 experts have contributed to the development of this course, including experts from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. We are so grateful for these contributions and the support of the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development to create this self-paced learning tool. Read more.

The Shop Smart Eat Smart Healthy Food Retail Program is starting in Virginia

By Liza Dobson, Healthy Food Retail Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, Lynchburg

The Family Nutrition Program’s (FNP) (http://blogs.ext.vt.edu/eatsmart-movemore/) mission is to teach limited-resource families and youth to make healthier food choices and become better managers of available food resources for optimal health and growth. Our programs focus on basic nutrition, physical activity, safe food handling, and thrifty food shopping.  FNP Program Assistants conduct educational programming in schools, community centers, foodbanks, farmers markets, community gardens, and numerous other venues, contributing to the reduction of healthcare costs for 148,000 SNAP-eligible Virginians.

While the FNP works to help shape healthy behavior, we also understand why practicing these behaviors is challenging. Many areas across the United States are considered “food deserts” (a term no longer used by the USDA), where some low-income families also have low food-access.  While income and distance from a grocery store are two main factors, we also know that food quality, price, and preparation knowledge are just as important.  All of these factors influence a household’s or community’s “food environment.”  Read more

Using a “Food Shed” Concept to Frame the Regional Food System

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.

Organizing a Farm to Table Meal

By Megan Dunford – Virginia Farm to Table Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension & Eric Bendfeldt – Extension Specialist, Community Viability, Virginia Cooperative Extension

There is no denying that the farm to table trend and its impacts have taken root in communities throughout Virginia, and across the United States. Farm to table meals have the potential to generate grassroots support for area farms, farmers markets, and local food programs. While sharing a thoughtfully prepared meal, community members have the chance to bond and reconnect over a region’s shared agriculture. If the perfect storm of local food advocates presents itself, use these suggestions as a starting point to organize a Farm to Table meal and event in your own community. Read more.

Collaboration – The key to food council/network success

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

Virginia Market Manager Certification Course

By Meredith Ledlie Johnson, Coordinator, Food Access and Availability Initiative, Family Nutrition Program (EFNEP and SNAP-Ed), Virginia Cooperative Extension

Overview of Program

An exciting pilot farmers market manager certification program was developed in response to market managers’ stated need for continuing education. The goal of the certification program was to professionalize the role of market manager, and lessen turnover in this position.

The certification program was developed through a collaborative partnership between Virginia Farmers Market Association and Virginia Cooperative Extension, with sponsorship by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Read more

Virginia’s Family Nutrition Program is designing a comprehensive program around healthy food retail

By Liza Dobson, Healthy Food Retail Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, Lynchburg

The Family Nutrition Program’s (FNP) (http://blogs.ext.vt.edu/eatsmart-movemore/) mission is to teach limited-resource families and youth to make healthier food choices and become better managers of available food resources for optimal health and growth. Our programs focus on basic nutrition, physical activity, safe food handling, and thrifty food shopping.  FNP Program Assistants conduct educational programming in schools, foodbanks, farmers markets, community gardens, and numerous other venues, contributing to the reduction of healthcare costs for 148,000 SNAP-eligible Virginians. Read more.

Food System Thinking at LEAP (Local Environmental Agriculture Project) in Roanoke, VA

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