Although Asheville is often touted as “Foodtopia,” recent reports suggest the real picture of food security in our area might not be so rosy. Numerous “food deserts” do exist in our area (though City Council has worked to change that by allowing produce stands and other fresh-food vendors to operate in residential areas).
On April 24, another potential pathway to solving food security issues was brought before Asheville City Council. Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith presented a list of initiatives that the fledgling Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council has been working to develop.
Smith has helped spearhead the creation of the A-B FPC, a group that seeks to address food insecurity by concentrating local resources. In a town full of activists, farmers, sustainable agriculture advocates and organizations like Bountiful Cities, MANNA FoodBank, ASAP and Slow Food, some of our best resources may be human.
“By all of these organizations coming together over a common mission, we can organize our strategies so they’re going to be complimentary and we can form a comprehensive community strategy that is going to be able to get us to the goal,” says Smith. “If we have ten different goals, we could easily end up achieving none of them. By coming together to have this chief goal of food security — that is going to reduce hunger, alleviate poverty, improve public health and expand local commerce and create a more sustainable food system — by having all of those players on board, we’re more likely to get there faster.”
Some of the strategies the A-B FPC have outlined include considering our current land-use. The A-B FPC says that the city could offer more areas to grow food if more community gardens were allowed in public parks. Also, zoning policies could be reworked to encourage urban agriculture. Other initiatives include encouraging neighborhoods to have plans in place in case of food emergencies, such as scarcity during natural disasters.
It’s a wide-ranging strategy, covering a number of areas — but policies addressing food work best that way, Smith says. “Only a systemic view can lead Asheville to a more food-secure future,” he wrote in the document he presented to Council.
The A-B FPC is moving forward. “Council unanimously agreed that this is a direction that we should be going,” Smith says.
What’s next? The Sustainable Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment, an Asheville city group that handles various environmental initiatives, will meet with the A-B FPC to help them refine their policies. After that, the agenda will return to Council with a set of more-detailed goals. Xpress will keep you posted.
“I’m gratified to have so many community members on board with this,” Smith says. “It’s their commitment and dedication that’s making it happen.”
Want to learn more? Visit http://www.abfoodpolicy.com.