Over 75 community members attended Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council (ABFPC) meeting titled, “Meeting of the Whole” on Wednesday evening, April 2 to discuss initiatives for 2014. Just a few items on the upcoming agenda include increasing access to local and healthy food choices in Bumcombe County schools, connecting local farmers to collaborate on community efforts and addressing the pressing issue of food insecurity in WNC.
“I think a collaborative approach between like-minded organizations is a very welcome initiative. Coming together in the same room to conspire is important because we have a lot more voice together than we do separately,” said Lee Warren, executive director of the Asheville Organic Growers School.
After greeting and orienting the numerous new attendees, ABFPC member Emily Kujawa gave a brief overview of the council’s 2013 accomplishments. Within the last year, the council has influenced the City Council to revise its unified development ordinance to allow markets in residential areas seven days a week, as well as allow secondary structures on land that does not have a primary structure, making it legal to grow food in sheds or greenhouses on vacant property. The council also helped form a WNC farm link website described as a “match.com” for established and aspiring farmers. The group also gained a seat within the North Carolina Public Health Policy Council.
Attendees agreed that food insecurity is the most poignant issue in 2014. Kujawa points out, “We have 104,000 individuals in this area who will experience some form of food insecurity this year, and 38,000 of those are children.” One of the initiatives backed by the council is the recent launch of the Ujamaa Freedom Market, a mobile market bringing fresh and local foods to underserved populations. Other efforts aligned with addressing food insecurity include working toward an increase of community gardens on public land, educating the public about home gardening and partnering with organizations such as MANNA Food Bank, Salvation Army and Meals on Wheels.
The council operates through seven different “clusters” — each one pertaining to a different initiative, and community members are encouraged to join any clusters that appeal to them. Each cluster meets on at least a monthly basis to discuss their plans and initiatives and then brings them forth to the council for execution.
The clusters include:
• Access Cluster — aiming to increase food access and education in food insecure areas
• Land Use Cluster — working toward increasing production of healthy, organic food and connecting farmers
• Pollinators Cluster — encouraging less pesticide use within food production and the city’s parks
• Farmers Support Cluster — advocating for farmers on policies that create a regional resilient food system
• Health and Education — educating citizens about their local farmers and advocating for increased nutritional foods in schools
• Water — aiming to improve local water resources and address flooding/drought issues that effect food production
• Policy Mobilization — focus on networking with community leaders and developing strategy for putting initiatives into action
Bobby Sullivan, veteran supporter of the council and general manager of the French Broad Food Coop, says, “We primarily look locally for products, but we are still dependent on some national or regional distributers to supply staple food.” Through the council, Sullivan is able to work with local farmers and food suppliers on meeting both of their goals.
Jannell Kapoor, director of the Ashevillage Institute and founder of the Urban Farm School, agrees. “I come to connect and cross-pollenate with other council members. I’m truly passionate about the big picture and long-term vision of the council and am intrigued how a whole city can come together to create that vision,” she says.