Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Developing a Regional Strategy for a Robust Food System

"The more organized we are, the more effective we will be" was a theme of today's meeting to build resource capacity and develop a regional strategic plan for Eastern Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The scope of the discussion was as extensive as our complex food system: nutrition education, local food hubs, community gardens, food access, community service, food pantries, healthcare and more.

More than thirty people participated, representing a diversity of actors in the food system. Through a partnership of the Central Appalachian Network and the Appalachian Funders' Network, the Food System Working Group was formed bringing together Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), Rural Resources and Appalachian RC&D (ARC&D) to help lead the efforts. Now the project is funded by a grant from the Rural Community Development Initiative. Several Grow Appalachia partners sites were there including Sprouting Hope, ASD, Rural Resources, and Build it Up Tennessee. Other groups included the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Harvest of Hope, Rural Development, Healthy Kingsport, and the USDA Farm Service Agency.

By building a strong network involving a diversity of stakeholders, investors will be more attracted to our region and to support our collaborative efforts. The more efficient we are, the greater our impact, and funders understand that.

Some collaborative projects that were highlighted during the meeting:
  • Local Food Promotion Program is a partnership between ARC&D, ASD and JBO to help farmers gain access to markets and increase consumer demand for local foods.
  • Veggie Rx is a successful program idea from Wholesome Wave that we hope to bring to provide resources for healthcare providers to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to patients with diet-related illnesses.
  • Healthy Kingsport provides free nutritional education, health care diagnostics and preventative care.
  • The Smyth County Virginia Nutrition Action Network's Family Fitness Challenge provides medical diagnostics, fitness programming, nutritional education, and gardening classes for children and their parents in rural areas of the county.
The next step is a visioning meeting in the near future to further develop several working groups that will concentrate on specific components of the food system. Please email Jason at Jason@sproutinghope.org if you would like to participate in the upcoming visioning meeting.

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