Results from the Triad Regional Food Network Gathering

This post is way overdue – better late than never as they say.

welcomesign_web-3The Triad Regional Food Network Gathering met on May 2, 2016 in Kernersville, NC hosted by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council and Community Food Strategies.  Six representatives from Davidson County including Cary and Grace Kanoy (DC Food Network facilitators), Kira Chaloupka (Davidson Co-op Extension), Mark Petruzzi (Board Member, Lexington Farmers Market), Jen Hames (Davidson County Health Department), and Maxine Boyst of BN Acres (Grassfed Beef) who were able to attend. Together we enjoyed  meeting over 50 other attendees representing food councils from the following counties: Guilford, Forsyth, Alamance, Caswell, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes and Wilkes County as well as representatives from the state government and other non-profit organizations.

Here is the report issued by Gini Knight of Community Food Strategies, which covers the results and discussions undertaken at this gathering.  In addition, I recommend that you read the web post by Community Food Strategies regarding this gathering.

If you are interested in the reports of the other 2016 Regional Gatherings across the state, you can find them at the Community Food Strategies website. 

Click here for the 2016_Triad_FoodNetwork_report

For those interested in understanding Foodtoolkit_CSD

Triad Food Network Gathering – May 2

savethedate_triadgatheringWe would like to invite all food council members and local food advocates to attend a free Regional Food Network Gathering for the Triad region on Monday, May 2nd.

This event will be a mixture of program sharing, networking, and regional goal-setting for local farm and food initiatives in the Triad.  Attending this event will be a great way to learn about what is happening across the region and to interact with others invested in supporting healthy food, communities, and agriculture. We hope you all can attend!

We encourage you to come with at least 2-3 people from your community or county. Please forward this invitation as you feel appropriate.   Lunch will be catered by Triad Community Kitchen.
This event is one of six regional gatherings that are being held across the state by Community Food Strategies and the Local Food Council of North Carolina. Members of the state food council will be in attendance to talk about their work, as well as to listen and better understand the Triad region’s community food system.

 Agenda

  • 8:30 Registration, coffee provided
  • 9:00 Welcome
  • 9:15 Piedmont Together, Triad Sustainability Plan, overview
  • 9:30 Council presentations (Guilford, Davidson, Forsyth, Rockingham, and others)
  • 10:30 Regional visioning exercise
  • 11:30 Developing next steps
  • 12:00 Lunch and networking
  • 12:30 Local Farm and Food Profile County and Council of Government profiles presentation
  • 1:00 Adjourn
A big thank you to the Piedmont Triad Regional Council for hosting us in Kernersville. We look forward to seeing you all at the event!
For questions, contact Gini Knight at gini_knight@ncsu.edu.

February Meeting : Davidson County Food Economic Development – Why you need to attend

Here in Davidson County, we are a classified as a food desert. What is a food desert?

The USDA defines food desert as,

1. “Low-income communities“, based on having: a) a poverty rate of 20 percent or greater, OR b) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area median family income; AND

2. “Low-access communities“, based on the determination that at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract’s population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (10 miles, in the case of non-metropolitan census tracts).

“A food economy can completely revive your local health, local business, your economy as a whole.”

What does this actually mean?

If you visit Davidson County, you will be met by vast properties that look like farms, rolling hills, woodlands, a picturesque countryside that evokes the beautify of North Carolina. Then, how could it be possible that this county suffers from lack of access to fresh, health food?

Traditionally, Davidson County agriculture was based in tobacco, not food production. Abandoned farms or underused farms grow hay (because of poor soil conditions from conventional farming), and soy or corn production not necessarily for local use.

You may find the odd semi-retired vegetable farmer, some small-scale backyard strawberry grower, but not enough farmers to really drive impact within the county. Many farmers in fact, sell their items outside of the county because of easier access to consumers or distributors.

Grocery stores are found in urban centers such as Thomasville clustered in one area. The grocery stores or markets are not dispersed throughout the city or county equitably.

In terms of restaurants, the majority restaurants in this county are fast-food chains. Low nutrition and low quality foods are the most easily accessible food; food that fills the stomach but lack sufficient nutrition for health.

What does this county need?

Davidson County simply put needs more and better access to fresh, health foods. Access includes the following:

  • More, better, diverse restaurants, better quality food
  • More foodpreneurs/entrepreneurs
  • More support to develop entrepreneurship
  • More and increased resources for entrepreneurs, farmers, foodpreneurs (restaurants, distributors, product development)
  • Local produce for groceries, restaurants, corner stores
  • Include food development in Davidson County economic development strategy
  • Broaden tourism to include food tourism, agritourism
  • Food hub and other food support resources
  • Skills training in cooking, product development, processing
  • Collaboration between economic development strategy, community college, government and private enterprises

Why is food important for the economy?

People always ask, why do we need a food network? Or why is food so important to you?

For a thriving community to exist, residents need to be healthy. Health comes from the following: clean air, clean water, healthy food, physical activity and last but not least, a loving and supportive community. When your residents, neighbors, family members are healthy, from a business standpoint, it means healthy workers and better productivity. A healthy workforce attracts businesses and companies to headquarter or open sites in your community.  Healthy students mean better attendance, better school performance. A healthy community attracts larger business interests.

HEALTHY COMMUNITY = STRONGER ECONOMY = GOOD BUSINESS

A health community that feeds itself is an INDEPENDENT and STABLE community because you do not have to rely on outside resources and are less susceptible to disruption from external factors.

From a community standpoint, from a family standpoint, Food can bring people together. It is a conversation starter among strangers; it is an event to form stronger bonds; eating together is an act of community.

What are we going to do about it? (Come to the meeting)

And here we are, the development of the Davidson County Local Food Network, a platform for connectivity, for discussion, for building new ideas and supporting existing programs. Our February meeting is dedicated to Food Economic Development in Davidson County.

Who should be at this meeting?

  • Food producers (farmers, chefs, cooks, canners, homemakers, caterers)
  • Food Distributors (any organization that serves food in their business): restaurants, cafeterias, caterers, grocers, food trucks
  • Event Planners
  • Health Care – Hospitals, Nutritionists, Senior Homes, Childcare
  • Government representatives (Economic Development, Tourism)
  • Churches (Youth Groups, Youth Missions)
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Community Builders
  • Community Activists

What could we develop?

  • Food hub
  • Food distribution system
  • Farm to fork distribution
  • New Business ideas
  • Stronger more competitive businesses
  • You decide

MEETING DATE

Thursday, February 19, 1:30 pm
Place: Thomasville Chamber of Commerce
941 Randolph Street, Thomasville, NC 27361

Eventbrite - Food Economic Development in Davidson County

How traditional canning and gleaning can be one solution: SIGN UP TO BE A CANNING TRAINER

Collards
Photo by Grace Kanoy

The Situation. The Challenge.

At one of our meetings, we discovered that many food banks in Davidson County were making efforts to offer fresh produce to those in need. Many families in Thomasville lack wholesome food and suffer food insecurity. Farmers often have produce that are uncollected in their fields or are unable to sell excess produce.

When food banks made efforts to offer fresh produce, they were met with the following challenges: 1) refrigeration space, 2) spoilage, short shelf life and  3) lack of cooking knowledge by the recipient.

So what can we do?

Thomasville is seeking to solve two problems in one elegant solution –

Mary Jane Akerman, Wellness Coordinator at Thomasville City Schools initiated a conversation with Sandy Devoid, wife of Memorial United Methodist Church minister Ben Devoid, regarding these challenges.  Devoid made the connection with the Society of St. Andrew, (a non-profit organization devoted to gleaning farm fields and providing the produce to those in need). Together with our local food network member, Davidson County Cooperative Extension and other interested folks the idea of the Gleaning and Canning Project (TG&C) hatched.

Partnering with the Society of  St. Andrew to gather unpicked produce from area farms, TG&C will be gathering  fresh produce at risk of spoilage and waste.  Trained canners will teach local families to can produce and send them home at the end of the session with nutritious cans of fruits and vegetables.

Davidson County Cooperative Extension will be training individuals who are willing to be a part of this process.  The canning “train the trainers” class will be Wednesday, February 11, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Lexington Cooperative Extension Kitchen.  There is no charge for this class and lunch will be served.  Snow date is February 18, same time and place.

Pickled Okra
A North Carolina favorite, pickled okra. (Photo by Cary Kanoy)

Trained canners will be on a list to be contacted when produce is ready to be canned.  If available, the trainers will be asked to lead families through the canning process.

This program provides, in particular, to churches and event centers with commercial kitchens, a community building tool to reintroduce traditional canning skills to families and preserve healthy food that could be used throughout the year.

BE A CANNING TRAINER

Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 ( Snow date is February 18)
Time: 9 am – 3 pm
Place: Davidson County Cooperative Extension,
301 East Center Street, Lexington, NC 27292
Cost: No charge
Please contact Mary Jane Akerman at akermanmj@triad.rr.com.

What Happened at our Second Meeting?

Davidson County Local Food System PosterDate: October 1, 2014 – 2 pm
Place: Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce
Attendance: 23

The second meeting took place at the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce. This time the meeting was facilitated by Grace Kanoy, who is a member of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Because there were many new faces, the meeting opened up with a brief summary of what food councils can do for their communities (see Davidson County Food Council presentation) and then quickly moved onto introductions of the various attendees.

who came to the meeting?

The attendees at the meeting represented various food-related sectors of the community:

  • Food Pantry representatives
  • Farmers
  • Small business owners
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Senior care providers
  • School administration

Not bad for our second meeting! We had robust representation from Davidson County’s food pantries and representatives who serve our local children such as Brenda Watford, Child Nutrition Director for  Thomasville City Schools and Beth Farrell, Thomasville’s Parks and Recreation specialist who oversees an after school vegetable garden program with Thomasville City Schools.

getting to know each other

Many Davidson County residents are unaware of the projects and caring work undertaken by the organizations here. After brief introductions of each of the attendees, we learned about various food-related sectors in our community and their challenges.

what challenges are we facing?

We had a robust discussion on the issue of food insecurity in Davidson County.  Sgt. Mary Ashby of The Salvation Army brought up the issue of seeing the same families and even the next generation using the food pantries as a regular source of food. In other words, families would “shop” from pantry to pantry regarding the pantries as a handout rather than a hand up. Ashby introduced the idea of a skills workshop for these families to try to break the cycle of poverty.  This discussion was abbreviated due to lack of time, but promises to be an issue that needs to be explored.

The idea of more fresh produce at food pantries was suggested, especially produce that could be gleaned from farms at the end of each harvest. However, many of the food pantry organizers face challenges of refrigeration space and spoilage. Further suggestions were made regarding canning the produce to be sold or given away as secondary product.  Amy-Lynn Albertson mentioned that secondary product can only be sold at the Farmers Market if the producer holds certification to do so.  She listed the following challenges: home-canned products can only be sold if the processor has undergone the canning certification; secondly, canning must be processed in an inspected commercial kitchen. The cost of taking the certification may be cost prohibitive to many people.

It turns out that there are several commercial kitchens in Davidson County, many of which are found in churches! Apparently, there are 20 commercial kitchens available in Thomasville. A potential solution is to involve the churches and their commercial kitchens and develop a system where gleaned produce can be used for secondary products. This discussion will continue.

Again, these discussions had to be limited because of time.

what resources did we discover?

Community garden at Memorial Park run by Thomasville Parks and Recreation.
Community garden at Memorial Park run by Thomasville Parks and Recreation.

We were very lucky to have Greg Rice, former Director of Habitat for Humanity in Davidson County in attendance. He shared his experiences regarding the ½ acre community garden in the Historic Downtown Thomasville district that he oversaw a few years ago.  Rice had overwhelming support from the Cooperative Extension, but had difficulty with volunteers. Although they produced ample produce, enough produce to even sell at the Farmers’ market, they were unable to sustain the project because he lacked committed volunteers.

Beth Farrell runs the community garden at Memorial Park. This garden is the focus for her after-school program in partnership with Thomasville City Schools. The program has been very successful in engaging elementary and middle school students, not only during the school year, but throughout the summer.  Farrell confesses that the community garden takes up a lot of her time, and the sustainability of her program will require volunteers. She would love more volunteers to help her work with the students.  In addition, to the garden, Parks and Rec were able to hold cooking lessons teaching students how to use the produce from the garden and to make healthy options. Surplus vegetables were sent home with the children to their families.

The success of Farrell’s community garden can be attributed to her collaboration with Thomasville City Schools. Teaching children, who then invite their parents to be involved seems to have a better rate of engagement than Rice’s community garden which was based purely on adult volunteers.  Perhaps, we should pursue more student based programs and nurture a culture of gardening with this generation.

things to do:

  • Use Google Maps to list community gardens in Davidson
  • Use Google Maps to list all commercial kitchens available
  • Organize a public forum to allow more members of the community to have a say in the development of our food network
  • Pursue discussion regarding food insecurity and better accountability methods for those who receive food from the pantries
  • Pursue discussion on expanding children’s involved in community gardens
  • Pursue discussion on canning and gleaning program
  • Consider farm network to assess supply and connect with food pantries and school institution needs
  • Formalize food network structure

what happened after the meeting?

After the meeting, we did the following:

  • Set up a more complete Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/davidsonfoodnetwork — FOLLOW US – the FB page has a number of resources
  • Set up this blog – use a blog as a mode of information distribution
  • Set up a newsletter – keep members updated on the food system network’s progress
  • Created a logo
  • Modified the name from “council” to “network” to better represent the current state of the tentative organization
  • Received an email from Mary Jane Akerman (Wellness Director at Thomasville City Schools) regarding a gleaning program and a canning training program in January or February. More information soon!

Do you like what you are reading?

If you like what you are reading and want more, you can do the following:

  • Sign up for our newsletter
  • Join our Facebook page
  • Make comments and suggestions
  • Attend our meetings and join our food network!

 

 

 

 

FIRST MEETING: What is a local food system council?

Date: April 17, 2014, 12:30-2 pm
Place: Davidson County Health Department
Attendance: 13

Heritage Chicken Eggs
Heritage Chicken Eggs

On April 17 at the Davidson County Health Department, 13 participants were able to attend a free webinar, Community Food Councils: Challenges and Opportunities, co-hosted by the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, NC State, NC A&T and the NC Dept of Agriculture.  The presentation gave attendees a thorough look at the roles of local food councils in communities.

In the last five years, food council activity in North Carolina has grown to include more than 24 counties. The webinar brought together experts on food councils to discuss successes, as well as pitfalls to avoid in creating and maintaining a community food council.

For those interested, here is the link to the Community Food Councils presentation.

After participating in the webinar, those present briefly discussed the presentation and  agreed to pursue the idea of a Local Food System council in Davidson County.