New funding to continue EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems’ Work with Food and Farm Businesses in Southwestern NC

Press release from EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems:

[Raleigh, NC – December 6, 2022] — Since 2019, EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems (EMFS) has brought together producers, food businesses, schools, and regional partners to increase business opportunities for food and farm businesses and support the expansion of the food supply chain in Southwestern North Carolina. EMFS programs focus on Jackson, Macon, Haywood, Swain, Cherokee, Clay, and Graham counties, and the Qualla boundary.

An initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), EMFS is pleased to announce new sources of funding to continue this work.

$205,350 from the Dogwood Health Trust will allow EMFS to continue to provide health education and cooking classes along with each box of food delivered in the Harvest Health produce prescription program. This combination of services is a unique model for other food systems initiatives in the state. The original Harvest Health program, launched by Regional Area Specialized Agent Jessica Mrugala with support from MountainWise, Western Carolina University, and Vecinos, has inspired a similar project to begin in Swain County in partnership with Darnell Farms.

EMFS partner Community Food Strategies, another initiative of CEFS, has also been awarded a USDA grant to support food council work in the seven-county region and the Qualla Boundary as well as in the Piedmont Triad Region. This support will build on EMFS programming with each regional county and the Eastern Band to assess food council ideas and strategically plan for growth and effective programming. This funding will continue for the next two to three years.

Finally, regional county Extension directors recently met to discuss a new round of Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding to replicate and expand EMFS programming undertaken during the past four years. Along with Project Director, Laura Lauffer,  Dr. Michelle Shroeder-Moreno, director of CEFS and Becky Bowen from Community Development, NC State Extension will be helping to facilitate this conversation and plan to submit a new proposal in April 2023. We will be reaching out to farmers and food businesses in the region assessing entrepreneurial and supply chain focus areas to continue to grow a regionally robust supply chain.

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