A bunch of ideas (in no particular order)

A community garden by Holy Trinity Church in downtown Greensboro.


  • Urban orchards: Guilford County Schools has leased one of its vacant properties near Greensboro’s Westerwood neighborhood for an urban orchard that will also act as an educational site for students. A nearby cornerstone for the Downtown Greenway includes a small, public edible garden, and urban orchards are rising in popularity in other places locally too, including the Thomas Built Nature Preserve & Urban Orchard in High Point.
  • Vacant city lots: Wendy Fuscoe, who volunteers with the Greater High Point Food Alliance, has suggested the city look at using vacant lots for growing food. A similar idea is put forth in Winston-Salem’s Legacy 2030 plan.
  • Retail grants: Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican, put forward House Bill 250, the Health Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act. The bill would provide small grants of up to $5,000 to small food retailers “to purchase and install… refrigeration equipment, display shelving and other equipment necessary for stocking nutrient-dense foods.” Only small food retailers in certified food deserts would be eligible for the grants.

    The garden at the Edible Schoolyard


  • In-school education: Several respondents said they would like to see schools embrace food-education programs to help students understand where food comes from and better comprehend healthy eating as well as how to cook. The Greensboro Edible Schoolyard is doing exactly that sort of work with students at Peck Elementary and a number of local schools do have on-site gardens that are part of the curriculum.
  • Co-op groceries: Several people pointed to the Renaissance Community Co-op, a grassroots-led initiative for a cooperative grocery store in a food desert in east Greensboro. It’s the sort of bottom-up approach that, if replicated, would go a long way towards stability and food access, people said.
  • Rooftop gardens: Two Guilford College graduates started the first rooftop farm in Philadelphia, and Triadians would like to see similar initiatives here. On Monday, Greensboro City Councilman Jamal Fox shared an article stating that France has declared that “all new rooftops must be topped with plants or solar panels,” adding that “this is what we need” in Greensboro.
  • Council committee: Fox’s colleague Tony Wilkins has suggested the creation of a city council committee specifically focused on food hardship/insecurity.
  • Tax credit: State Rep. Ralph Johnson, a Guilford County Democrat, has proposed House Bill 455, Local Food Sourcing Tax Credit. It would give a 20 percent tax credit to grocers who sell local produce in a food desert, and if the amount exceeds the amount of taxes owed, the state would pay the money back.
  • College farms: Guilford College has created a significant farm in the last few years that sells to local restaurants and teaches students about farming, distribution and more. Some suggested other schools do the same, or specifically create gardens to grow food for free local meals or pantries.IMG_2764
  • Raise the wage: Many people TCB spoke with about food insecurity linked the problem back to wages. That’s not surprising considering that the No. 1 ranking for food hardship in the Greensboro/High Point metro area was based on whether respondents couldn’t afford food they needed in the last year (regardless of whether they ultimately obtained the meal through a charity, etc.). As Casey Thomas, a masters in public health student at UNCG, put it: “The worst thing you can do for your health is to be born poor. In public-health research, we see this globally, with consistent correlations between income and longevity…. In addressing food insecurity, it’s the same. It’s important to work on initiatives that directly address the issues people are facing, like food insecurity, but systemic economic disparities have to be addressed for there to be food security for everyone.” The Fight for $15 fast-food organizing campaign is a good example of work to reach that objective, she said.
  • The Little Green Book: Activist and volunteer Amy Murphy created a little green book, a resource guide to free meals in Greensboro. Almost 5,000 have been distributed, sometimes replacing wildly out-of-date lists at places like the Guilford Count Department of Social Services, Murphy said. She added that she could use help printing and distributing the next batch. Call her at 336.754.2106.
  • Thursday & Friday breakfast: There are three free meals every day in Greensboro, Murphy said, except for Thursday and Friday breakfast. She would love to see a group join the 21 existing faith and friend groups covering the other meals.
  • Attend a conference: Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, Wake Forest University’s Pro Humanitate Institute and the Office of the Provost as well as 88.5 FM WFDD invite you to a community conversation on hunger on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. The city of Greensboro hosts a drop-in brainstorming session about food deserts at Peeler Recreation Center on June 10 from 4 to 7 p.m. And the Rural Advancement Foundation International is hosting its annual Triad food conference on Thursday beginning at 8 a.m. at Elon Community Church in Elon. Details at org/cttt/conferences/.
  • Greensboro Faith Leaders Council: Are you a faith leader? This organization held a meeting at Bennett College last week about food insecurity, and invites other faith leaders to join them in exploring the issue in the future. Frank Dew, the pastor at New Creation Community Presbyterian Church, has been involved in organizing around hunger for years and has a few ideas of his own. He mentioned using the city’s parks system to plant fruit trees and small crops, and suggested a partnership with NC A&T University. He criticized the city’s plan to raise the water rate as regressive, and advocated local, state and federal policies that don’t criminalize poverty. “We have to quit this way of thinking of making poverty so difficult that people will want to get out of poverty,” he said. “The truth is that the extent to which people are working anywhere for less than a living wage, they are subsidizing the rest of our low prices.”
  • Direct input: Julie Peeples at the Congregational United Church of Christ Greensboro and another member of the faith leaders council suggested a food summit designed to gather input directly from those affected. Many other people said something similar. The Greater High Point Food Alliance hosted an event like that earlier this year.
  • Tiny-house model: Peeples suggested modifying the tiny-house model — a simple-living movement to downsize homes and do with less — to be a vertical, movable farm stand. She also had this to say: “I am a huge supporter of the new partnership between Mustard Seed Community Health and the Cottage Grove Initiative. Part of that plan is to have a community garden at the clinic and to offer cooking and canning classes. The Renaissance Co-op also needs wide community support. Beyond that, I think we could draw upon the universities and GTCC culinary arts programs, perhaps to set up some low-cost versions of ‘Let’s Dish’ and those other programs where people come and create their own meals.”
  • Letters to the editor: PR consultant Carroll Leggett, known around Winston-Salem as a foodie, encouraged people to write letters to the editor of local papers in support of specific programs or ideas. That’s part of the Greater High Point Food Alliance’s plan, and TCB would be happy to hear from you.
  • Personal touch: Leggett also said that making a discreet offer to a family you know in need is a great way to make an impact. Many people may not be willing to seek assistance through an “institutional source,” he said, but an occasional meal, bag of groceries or grocery store gift card could go a long way.
  • Shared spaces: Stephen Sills, the director of the Center for Housing and Community Studies at UNCG and the owner of Poly Tavern Farm, pointed out that almost every neighborhood has some sort of shared space, be it a church, school or community center that could provide land for a garden or farming. It’s working in Detroit too, he said.
  • Hospital partnership: Carl Vierling, the interim executive director of the Greater High Point Food Alliance, easily listed 11 ideas, some which other people came up with, too. One new idea: Local hospitals collaborating with a nonprofit or church to stock and maintain a food pantry at the hospital for patients as they’re being discharged. Those patients are often returning to homes with little or no food, he said, or the available food doesn’t meet their dietary needs.
  • Church vans: Vierling also proposed using church vans for scheduled neighborhood trips to a grocery store or farmers market.
  • Donate: Plenty of organizations working on food insecurity have financial needs. Thessa Pickett with One Step Further in Greensboro contacted TCB this week to say that the Servant Center is going to close at the end of June. It’s the only organization “that provides a grocery delivery service for homebound seniors,” she said. Pickett hopes to keep the program going. Visit onestepfurther.com.

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  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? http://bessemeraquaponics.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

    • 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? http://bessemeraquaponics.blogspot.com/

      • 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: http://bessemeraquaponics.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html 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: http://bessemeraquaponics.blogspot.com/2015/05/next-step-board-of-directors.html 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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