Coming Together: Food Councils in the Triangle

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” ~Henry Ford

Coming Together is a Beginning

This quote summarizes the theme that came ringing through the Triangle Regional Gathering on November 9th, 2018.  We had 39 participants representing Capital Area Food Network (CAFN), Chatham Community Food Council, Durham Farm and Food Network (DFFN), Orange County Food Council, additional triangle representatives, and a few folks from out of the state came together to network, learn and gather inspiration from council successes, create shared language on an equitable food system, and develop ways to collaborate on advocacy issues to improve the local food system.  

The event was held in partnership with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference.  To begin the Gathering, council members enjoyed networking together over a delicious, all sustainably produced meal sourced from North Carolina and South Carolina growers.

11_9_durham-welcomemapKeeping Together Is Progress

As we shifted into the content of the meeting, the councils were excited to share their accomplishments with each other over the past two years.  The accomplishments ranged over six different themes:

  • Organizational development,
  • Building connections,
  • Resource development,
  • Community engagement & assessment,
  • Racial equity, and
  • Advocacy and policy  

Within the organizational development theme, a few of the highlights include CAFN’s Food Security Program Manager, Orange County Food Council’s four party Memorandum Of Understanding signed to fund a full time coordinator, DFFN and Chatham Community Food Council both developed strategic plans and goals to move forward in a focused way. 

The food councils have built community connections through CAFN’s senior voices video project and Chatham’s convening of farmers’ market managers.  

Highlights from the assessment theme include: Chatham hosted an interactive forum for farmers and other stakeholders to get their input ways to improve the local food economy.  CAFN interviewed all the food pantries in the county and compiled that information into an assessment with recommendations to increase the number of food pantries in schools.  DFFN held a Re-setting the Table event in collaboration with the Durham Mayor’s office to get community input on a policy platform.  

Within resource development, the Orange County developed a Community Food Resource Guide and CAFN developed a food locator app and an online food recovery resource. CAFN also developed toolkits to support breakfast in classrooms and client choice in food pantries.

Orange County shared their work on racial equity including hiring a consultant, drafting a racial equity scorecard, and starting an equity committee.  

Councils have been successful in developing policy.  Chatham provided Town of Pittsboro with zoning recommendations.  Orange County is building on Cabarrus County’s work to establish an Agriculture Trust Fund through using deferred taxes from the Present-Use Value program.  All of the food councils were encouraged by working together on SNAP advocacy and policy exploration on sugar sweetened beverages.   

Following the sharing of accomplishments, Abbey Piner shared a draft of the Community Food Strategies network map.  The network map is designed to help food councils across the state  connect around issues and projects where they share similar interests.  This tool will help build relationships and keep the network together on shared topics.   This map is currently in the development stage and will be improved with the feedback collected from the network of councils.

Working Together is Success

The councils worked together on developing shared language on an equitable food system.  The conversation starter was the Community Food Strategies “What is an equitable food system” video.  Participants worked together in small groups to define key concepts of an equitable food system. The key concepts the group came up with include:

  • Empowerment and advocacy with and for the community
  • Expanding food access
  • Developing common goals
  • Enhancing and creating partnerships
  • Sharing best practices
  • Investing locally

Community Food Strategies will be compiling all of the key concepts on shared language of an equitable food system from the six regional gatherings and share the summary with the network.  

11_9_durham-policycollaboration.jpgThe councils in this region requested a mini-workshop on cross council collaboration on issues and advocacy.  Each council shared their priorities for 2019 using the same themes from the accomplishments section – organizational development, community capacity building, resource development, assessment, racial equity, and advocacy and policy.  In mixed-council small groups, participants brainstormed where they could best collaborate together and what tools they may need for support.

The main recommendations included a coalition of local food councils on policy, a cross council group focusing on equity, sending representation to national conferences including public policy conference, Closing the Hunger Gap, and Feeding America, and lastly to develop a list serve specific to collaborating on policy issue together.  Participants left the gathering feeling energized about working together to have greater impact on policy issues as region.

We will be holding quarterly regional calls in 2019.  For more information on the triangle region councils contact Megan Bolejack at mbolejack@caresharehealth.org.

 

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