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.