Symposium addresses growing crisis of food insecurity in Richmond

In the City of Richmond, Virginia, 40,020 residents are food insecure and lack access to enough food for an active healthy lifestyle — roughly 20 percent of the total city population.

In July 2011, Richmond’s mayor established The Food Policy Task Force to “ensure all residents have access to healthy foods and an understanding of the impact this has on both an individual’s health and the health of the community at large.”

Virginia Cooperative Extension agents served on the task force and found that 20 to 60 percent of Richmond’s population – or between 40,000 to more than 120,000 of total residents – are going hungry or are at risk of food insecurity due to lack of healthy food access or consumption.

In 2014, the Richmond Extension office hosted the Urban Food Desert Symposium at Fifth Street Baptist Church, a church located in one of the 25 food deserts across the City. The First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, gave opening remarks.

The symposium, which was attended by approximately 85 individuals and covered by CBS News 6 reporter Shelby Brown, promoted an awareness of the existence food deserts in Richmond and brought together resources in an effort to address the growing concern.

At the event, McAuliffe said that Extension is doing its part in “bridging the gap” by providing a forum for affiliates and partners to help work on this initiative. Councilperson Cynthia Newbille, representing Richmond’s 7th District, agreed.

“I am not only happy with today’s event, but I am also happy with the work that Richmond City VCE does in our communities with gardening, nutrition and financial literacy. They are a valuable resource,” Newbille said.