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