The bigger picture, locally

Food activists in High Point instantly pointed to a list of objectives on the Greater High Point Food Alliance’s website. The organization splits its members into various teams, each with listed three-month and one-year goals. The longer-term goals are most telling, including an array of ideas including planning a food park in the Southside neighborhood, collaborating with a community garden in West End, exploring the creation of a tool/labor/knowledge-sharing network, beginning to address needs such as interpreters for food pantries, hosting a food summit in 2016 and coming up with a five-year sustainability plan.

Members of the alliance are thinking about things that plenty of other people are not, including the different dietary needs of residents in terms of religion and culture as well as health restrictions. And the organization is also talking about providing recipes to food pantries so that recipients actually have an idea of what to do with the food they’re receiving.

Winston-Salem is a little further along, with a section of the Legacy 2030 city plan specifically addressing food access. One of the first things the plan does is study and spell out how deep the problem is.

“Recent research in Forsyth County reveals that only 40 percent of Forsyth County’s ZIP codes had sufficient access to healthy food outlets, such as grocery stores, produce stands and farmers markets,” it reads.

That’s despite 40 community gardens in the county, most of them in Winston-Salem, that have sprung up since 1992, but a recent surge in interest has lead the county cooperative extension to establish a resource program for people interested in following suit. The report also references a 2010 study, entitled Community Gardens and Farmers Markets, Forsyth County, that recommends using public land for community gardens and farmers markets and encouraging school gardens.

The study proposed considering retail food incentives, which include upgrading existing neighborhood and convenience stores; identifying transit issues; determining the feasibility and benefits of using vacant, public land for community gardening and healthy food retailing; and looking at zoning codes and municipal regulations that may interfere with mobile vending and farmers markets.

Legacy 2030 outlines additional ideas too, from rooftop gardening to hydroponic agriculture.

Kelly Bennett, the Winston-Salem city planner who directed TCB to the food-access plan, said several of the action items have already been worked on or completed. And he shared an additional idea he came up with; A lot of conversation centers around bringing food to people by eliminating food deserts, but maybe part of the solution is creating affordable housing in areas that already have strong food access.

Greensboro is behind its peer cities in the Triad, lacking a comprehensive and detailed plan for addressing food insecurity. But with the recent formation of a food council and greater resources to examine the issue — including a USDA grant — change is hopefully on its way.



  1. It is about economic development in our area. Creating jobs in the food system and outside the foodsystem that pay well so people can support themselves and their family. A well designed transit system would be extremely helpful as people wouldn’t have to spend money on cars and all the costs involved in owning a car besides the environmental costs. A huge expense would be removed from a family budget that could be spent on securing food and other essentials.
    Jobs and Transit!!!
    Thank you Eric for writing this article.

  2. From the article: “It’s clear that the root of the issue is about much more than a need for more food drives and pantries, but lies in an economic system that disadvantages a significant portion of the population. Food insecurity is inseparable from larger issues of poverty, access and power, making it challenging not to be overwhelmed and immobilized by the breadth of the problem.”

    And yet the one item that is left out of the conversation is the only idea pitched that presents any real solutions– why?

    • Wow – pretty arrogant to think your idea was the “only idea pitched that presents any real solutions.” I would love to see a list of all the ideas generated though. Can this be made available?

  3. Also from the article: “Door-to-door delivery: Brendan Younger recently pitched a concept at an Idea Slam event in Greensboro — build a business around delivering food door-to-door, even in low-income areas. He doesn’t want to implement it himself, but could envision someone making one delivery of staple items a week, estimating that one person could serve at least 100 households a week. Calculating the density of local food deserts, using a food-stamp calculator and looking at wholesale food prices, Younger figured it could be feasible and accessible.”

    I pitched Bessemer Aquaponics at that very same event– why no mention?

      • Yes Eric, the same mutual friend who tells me he also told you about my idea. Could it be you’re ignoring the idea not because it is a bad idea but because of your personal feelings about me?

        Bad journalism, Eric.

        • Hi Billy,

          Really, it was just that Joel and I happened to be at Gibb’s at the same time as Eric and so it was really easy for me to get Eric’s email address and send him the information I had. It’s clear from the length of the article that Eric talked to a ton of people and his intention wasn’t to find the absolute best ideas or present the one true path forward, just to keep people talking and thinking about this.

          I do like your idea quite a bit. Are you finding the resources you need to make it happen?

          • Brendan, I liked your ideas so much I added them to our vision: Not that I’m trying to steal or take credit for your ideas but you did say you only wanted to put it out there for someone else to use.Besides, as the producer of the food Bessemer Aquaponics could more cheaply supply the food than by buying through others.

            I realize that you and Joel were at Gibbs but you see the thing is, I pitched my ideas to Brian Clarey weeks ago and as always, he and Eric deliberately ignored me. Brian seems to be of the opinion that I’m only seeking publicity but the truth is there is nothing in this for me. You heard my presentation, like you and your idea I don’t want to run it, I don’t seek to profit from it, I could care less about attention except that ideas– even the best ideas in the world– die without attention.

            Had Brian and Eric looked at my idea and thought it bunk that would be one thing but I believe Eric has a personal grudge with me and is holding Greensboro’s poor hostage with his anger.

            As for resources, all I need now is a board of directors: who can share the vision.

          • As usual, my preferred response to you is “Whatever, Billy.” I am holding the poor hostage by not reading your blog? Get a grip. I’m vaguely aware that you’re doing something with aquaponics, and maybe it’s a great idea. But you do realize that there are a ton of people working on food insecurity that I didn’t interview, not just you, right? I’d say about a dozen people that I DID talk to didn’t even make it in for space/time reasons. As Brendan said, this list isn’t meant to be definitive, but to get the ball rolling. I’m glad you’re adding your idea in the comments.

          • Eric,

            Your first excuse:

            “The exclusion wasn’t intentional — I didn’t go to the event, but met Younger after the fact and heard about his idea from a mutual friend.”

            But that didn’t fly. Your second excuse:

            ” I’d say about a dozen people that I DID talk to didn’t even make it in for space/time reasons.”

            But you never talked to me. Brian Clarey never replied to my invitations to come to our meetings even with weeks notice. You and Brian made no effort to look into the ideas I’m presenting. I contacted Brian repeatedly and got zero response. And then Eric replies:

            “As usual, my preferred response to you is “Whatever, Billy.”

            As usual you have made a pretty good case for what I said about you in the first place:

            “Could it be you’re ignoring the idea not because it is a bad idea but because of your personal feelings about me?

            Bad journalism, Eric.”

            You’ve never taken the time to look at my ideas because of your anger towards me. Had you looked at them you would have given me straight answers as to Thank you for proving my point.

            When ideas are discounted not on the individual merit of the idea but because of who is presenting the idea, journalism fails us.

          • Believe it or not, Billy, your name does not come up very much around here. Except when you link-spam our pages. Poor form, by the way.

  4. Thank you for the shout out to the seed swap at the Ardmore Gateway Garden! I organized that event this year, and another where we gave away and swapped plants with community members. We had a modest turn out but hope to continue sharing our resources with our neighbors.
    Fantastic, inspiring, motivating article.

  5. The Servant Center isn’t closing the Servant Center is closing its pantry. However, One Step Further, Inc. Has decided to try to keep it open. OSF is attempting to $10K by June 30th to save the pantry!

  6. Thanks for this great article Eric! Just wanted to put it out there that the organization I work for (Partnership for Community Care) has started a healthy food pantry for our Medicaid patients with chronic disease–this is similar to an idea posed by the Greater High Point Food Alliance. We too have seen how linked food insecurity is after hospital discharge and with managing a chronic health condition. Would be happy to share what we are doing with others!

    • Now there’s a project that seeks to treat causes as well as symptoms. Too much of our efforts are directed towards symptoms when what we need are cause based solutions. Thank you for your efforts at Partnership for Community Care.

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