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
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 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
by Nikki D’Adamo-Damery and Phil D’Adamo-Damery, Former Deputy Director of the AFP (2011-2016), currently serving as the Community Coordinator for the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust
Image explaining the Cynefin Framework (Snowden & Boone, 2007)
How do you create a place-based food system that is resilient, accessible, affordable, and healthy for Appalachian communities? That question was at the heart of the Appalachian Foodshed Project’s (AFP) work in West Virginia, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina. The AFP engaged nutritionists, food distributors, sustainable agriculture experts, NGO’s, funders, government agencies, educators, producers, and community activists to creatively address food security across Central Appalachia using funding from the USDA’s AFRI* program. Over the course of 5 years, we moved beyond the search for silver bullets and easy solutions, and instead focused on how we might create the conditions for long-term, dynamic change.
In order to make this shift, we had to change the way we understood food security. Community food security is not a simple, or even a complicated, problem, even though we often treat it as such. It is complex, involving ever-moving relationships between culture, economics, environment, and policy. In order to address this complexity, we need to find new ways of working together so that we can nimbly respond to changing dynamics. (Read more)